Workplace innovation policies in European Countries. A Report to KOWIN

Workplace innovation policies in European countries
           A report to KOWIN

2009 – Totterdill made case-studies of the development of workplace innovation programmes (WPI) in some European countries. This study was executed for the South Korean agency KOWIN, that was preparing a national programme WPI.(See below for some reference to Korean policies). The UK WON report is still relevant since it provides information and lessons about the development of theory, practice and especially public policy on WPI.

Countries and Programmes
The descriptions of several European countries are included in the attachment of the report, namely:

  • Finland: TYKES. This is a programme on innovations in the frame of ‘industrial relations’ that was continued under TEKES and integrated in the national innovation policy. The first programmes of these series was started in 1973. Anno 2009 the aim is shortly, promotion of a qualitative and sustainable productivity. Key terms are: team-based work, development activities, co-operation between management and staff, quality of products and services, quality of operations.
  • France: Anact. This is an administrative establishment under the responsibility of the ministry of Employment and it started 1973. It aims at improvement of the quality of labour and the efficiency of companies by the development of innovative projects in workorganisations with a focus on participation. Key terms are: ageing workforce, health promotion and risk prevention, skills and competencies (employability), work organization and technology, musculoskeletal disorders and stress.
  • Germany (the Federation): Project Management Agency, PT-DLR. This is a non-profit organization started by the Ministry of Education and Science. This agency continued the national policy on Humanisation of Labour (Humanisierung der Arbeit) with a programme that started in 1974. Anno 2009 the key terms are: partnership as value creating chain, partnership in innovation, SME networks for innovation, balancing flexibility and stability, people in innovative process, new forms of work and qualifications.
  • North-Rhine, Westphalia: Gesellschaft für Innovative Beschäftigungsförderung (GIB, Organisation for new bussiness and employment). GIB was founded in 1984 by the Ministry for Employment, Health and Social Affairs of the German state North-Rhine, Westphalia. Key themes are: improvement of the competitiveness of SME’s, modernization of workorganisation, support for life-long learning, health and safety at work, improvement of the employability of the employees.
  • Ireland: Workplace Innovation Fund (WIF) was started in 2001 and came under the National Centre for Partnership and Performace (NCPP) later. Key themes in this Fund are: commitment to WPI, capacity for change ( management and HR practices), quality of work and employment.
  • Norway: Virkemidler for Regional FoU og Innovasjon (VRI, Programme for regional Research and Innovation) was started in 2007. It is a programme within the national Fund for research and innovation. The key terms of this programme are: promoting co-operation between companies and research institutions, strengthening the role of R&D institutions as regional stakeholders, developing a systematic approach to innovation through collaboration and dialogue, support of government policies for greater regional autonomy.


The programmes described are – apart from their differences – united by their grounding in a ‘high road’ conceptual model, one which takes a systematic view on organizational change and quality of working life and which looks for sustainability in a convergence between productivity and quality of working life. Employee involvement is central to this approach, as is an enhanced role for social partners as knowledgeable participants in the change process.
There is empirical evidence to demonstrate that the high road concept is well founded and achievable.

Some lessons
Resolving the problems of scale. Anact and GIB provided relatively small levels of support to a wide range of SME’s; that appeared encouraging.
The success of short-term interventions depends on the existence of combined knowledge and a culture conducive to high road WPI. Research-oriented programmes play a key role. The establishment of enterprise learning networks as a means of both stimulating and sustaining change is recognized.
WPI programmes cannot exist in a vacuum. Each of the six programmes made a wider impact on the wider policy and institutional environment by building trust-based collaborative networks with other agencies and actors. Social partners engagement is also a fundamental characteristic of the programmes described here. Investment in the competence and capacity of social partner organisations to support and engage in WPI initiatives should be an important dimension of public programmes.

Totterdill, Peter; Oliver Exton, Rosemary Exton, Jessica Sherrin. ‘Workplace innovation policies in European Countries. A report to KOWIN.’ (2009) UK Work Organisation Network.
See the attachement: Workplace innovation Direction and Government Policies in Korea, 2008/2009.
And see for more recent Government strategies:


Theme’s: Labour relations, Collaboration with external partners, Workplace Innovation.
Sector: n.a.
Source Research report