As Paul Cairney succinctly puts it – “tools used by governments to pursue a desired outcome. Examples include economic tools (taxes, spending, incentives), and regulations (voluntary, legal).”
The term “policy instrument” has previously been used rather loosely in much science and innovation policy literature. As Flanagan, Uyarra, and Laranja (2011, 706) note, the term has a high degree of “interpretive flexibility, carrying quite different meanings from time to time, place to place and actor to actor”. However, “policy instrument” is a well-established (and clearly defined) concept in the field of policy design (in turn, part of the wider field of public policy or policy studies). Policy instruments can be defined as “techniques of governance which, one way or another, involve the utilization of state resources, or their conscious limitation, in order to achieve policy goals” (Howlett and Rayner 2007, 2).
Martin, 2016: 158-
Martin, B. 2016. R&D policy instruments – a critical review of what we do and don’t know, Industry and Innovation, 23:2, 157-176,
Hood, Christopher C. 1986. The Tools of Government. Chatham, NJ: Chatham House.