Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to provide a first exploratory overview of the Mediterranean systemof innovation and present the results of interactiveworkwith 25 innovation delegates fromnorthern and southernMediterranean countries.The studycomes at awatershed for theUnion for theMediterranean, which is drawing up innovation policies for the future and debating ways of boosting core activities. Design/methodology/approach – This research benefits from the established literature on innovation systems (IS) to study how Mediterranean countries are enhancing their innovation capabilities. In collaboration with the European Institute of the Mediterranean, this research invited delegates from northern and southern Mediterranean countries, programme directors and representatives from the European Commission to discuss national and regional innovation activities in their own countries. Findings – The data shed light on how activities conducted by public and private organisations influence the IS functions, revealing shifting services and business models. Finally, the data highlighted the need to draw up an innovation strategy to boost R&D capabilities. Originality/value – The value of this research lies in the application of the well-established IS approach to the Mediterranean case and a description of existing enabling and blocking mechanisms.