Innovation – or the systematic experimentation with new ideas – will be essential for countries in Eastern Europe and the South Caucasus (EESC) in creating new points of competitive advantage and consolidating and strengthening existing ones to form the foundation and growth engines needed to reach the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals. With their high education levels, histories of research excellence, and strong political and societal commitment to innovation, the EESC countries carry substantial potential for innovation-driven growth. Realizing this potential requires sound, fl exible and evidence-based policy interventions that, put simply, enable and promote broad experimentation across the economy and society. EESC countries have put such interventions high on their policy agendas, engaging in a broad range of support mechanisms, such as incubators, technology parks, public research and fi scal incentives – but our research shows substantial room for reform to target innovation in a concerted fashion. As the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates the need for resilience and further constrains fi scal space, and as social spending and public debt grow, the imperative to maximize the positive impact of public support is clearer now than ever.

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