3. Existing meta-evaluations

Since the publication of the first OECD Framework for the Evaluation of SME and Entrepreneurship Policies and Programmes in 2007, there have been several meta-reviews of evaluation approaches and evidence in this area.

To identify meta reviews of evaluations of entrepreneurship and SME policies published since 2007, a search was made of academic publications, working papers and policy reports online via Google.com and Scholar.google.com. The citation databases Scopus and Web of Sciences were also searched. A total of twelve meta-evaluations were identified.

A synthesis of the reviews is presented in Table 3.1. It provides information on the year when the review was published, its source, focus and key findings. These groupings, together with others, will be used in our own review of 50 evaluations covered in Chapter 4.

There are however two important areas where the reviews presented in Table 3.1 differ from our review. First, Table 3.1 includes four reviews from low- and middle-income countries. Our review includes only OECD Members, which are all either high-income or upper-middle-income countries. It should be recognised that the impact of policy may differ according to country income levels. However, the inclusion of these evaluations in Table 3.1 is justified on the grounds that high quality evaluation methods were used and also that many of the outcome indicators are common and aligned with what we recommend for OECD countries. Second, because there were only four dimensions common to all the reviews, Table 3.1 compares the reviews only across year of publication, source, focus and key findings. Our review is considerably more wide-ranging on the dimensions of the evaluations considered.

Turning now to our interpretation of Table 3.1 we see that, of the twelve reviews, nine are of the impact of direct financial assistance (“Hard” support) – albeit in different forms – three of which focus on start-up subsidies for the unemployed. There is only one review that focuses solely on the effects of “Soft” business support (advice, training etc.) and one on the effects of business incubation. So, whilst there is reasonable coverage of the impact of financial support, there are major areas of policy expenditure where it was not possible to find reviews. This re-emphasises the point made in Part I that policy assessment is patchy – a point to which we will return in our own review.

In many respects, Table 3.1 confirms our conclusion from Part I that policy impact is mixed. Dealing with the eight reviews of financial assistance, Review 1 describes the impact of interventions as mixed. Tax incentives in low-income countries, covered in Review 2, also appear to have an “inconclusive” impact on economic outcomes and Review 3 paints a similar picture on financial subsidies. Review 4, again of low- and middle-income countries, confirms the above but, most interestingly in the light of our later findings for OECD countries, suggests that training and information programmes do have a positive effect. Review 5 returns to the “mixed evidence” theme, pointing to some finance programmes enhancing some performance metrics – such as survival – but having little impact on productivity. Review 8, for low and middle-income countries, finds that financial subsidies have a positive but only modest impact on several measures of firm performance. Review 10 on financial support for the unemployed seeking to enter self-employment finds that these enhance the earnings of participants. This is confirmed in Reviews 11 and 12, both of which are of German programmes. This programme in particular appears to be consistently successful on its chosen criterion.

Of the remaining non-financial programmes the picture is again mixed. Review 6 covering R&D-related programmes reports positive outcomes on a range of performance metrics such as employment and sales. Review 7 is the most positive of all, finding incubation “greatly enhances” the performance of tenants, but Review 9 can find no statistically significant positive impact on firm performance of “Soft” assistance.

The reviews to date do point to some clear policy successes – most notably the German programmes providing finance to the unemployed to become self-employed. The single review of incubation is also positive but several of the finance reviews – despite using good data and advanced statistical techniques – are unable to clearly link programme assistance to enhanced firm performance.


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