Workplace Innovation: Programmes as public policy instruments.

The case of the Provincial Government of Gipuzkoa

2020 – This doctoral dissertation summarises a line of research that is part of a broader time frame. In 2014 topics such as worker participation, social innovation and territorial development acquired particular relevance in the public and political agenda in Gipuzkoa (Basque Country, Spain). That same year at Sinnergiak Social Innovation, a research centre of the University of the Basque Country, we designed Gipuzkoa Workplace Innovation (GWPI) as an action research project. Action research broadly consists of three elements: research, action and participation (Gustavson.2006; Greenwood & Levin, 2007).


The GWPI project

The main goal of GWPI was to conduct research in workplace innovation. The project has been implemented during the 2014-2019 period in collaboration with the Provincial Government of Gipuzkoa (Department of Economic Promotion). The starting point that launches this journey takes place in 2014 with the design of a survey to capture data about participatory and innovative practices adopted by companies in Gipuzkoa. Through the use of a questionnaire and the involvement of 496 organisations the research revealed two issues: the low level of participation in the strategic decisions made in companies; and, the low degree of innovation as a systematic practice in workplace contexts. The empirical evidence of this first phase was made public at a conference and contrasted by external

researchers. The task of international contrasting fell to the EUWIN (European Workplace Innovation Network).

Between 2015 and 2016 the focus was directed towards the creation of a territorial learning network comprised by companies. Through the design of an itinerary, the participating companies took part in structured working sessions comprised by 6 learning modules, the main content of which was precisely related to the two practices brought up by the first stage of the research, namely; the low

levels of participation in strategic decisions and the degree of systematisation of innovation practices in companies. These activities not only highlighted the clear demand and will of the participating companies to share experiences, but also the knowledge gap regarding workplace innovation.


A programme

This is how the concept of the programme emerges as a focus of research. Conceptually a programme is defined as a public policy instrument that operates at national or regional levels. Programmes are designed to promote or provide support for organisations that aim to improve simultaneously their operational performance and working conditions (Alasoini, 2016).


Three articles

Given the interest that the public policy instrument acquires in research, between 2018 and 2019 Pomares has analysed and contrasted it with other experiences in EU countries and regions. Pomares collaborated with EUWIN and other public bodies such as the Scottish Enterprise agency and ANACT (L’Agence Nationale pour l’amélioration des Conditions de Travail), the French Agency for the Improvement of Working Conditions.

This research resulted in three scientific articles:

  • “Workplace Innovation Programmes: bridging research and policymaking" (Pomares, 2020).
  • “Revising workers participation in regional innovation systems: a study of workplace innovation programmes in the Basque Country" (Pomares, 2019)
  • “Alternative Learning Frameworks: Workplace Innovation Programmes Smart Specialisation Policies in the Basque Country" (Pomares, 2018).



Pomares Urbina, Egoitz; (2020) ‘Workplace Innovation: Programmes as public policy instruments. The case of the Provincial Government of Gipurkoa. PhD thesis University of the Basque