The challenge today is to transform European activities around innovation. It is the same for the United States as the growth and job mantra will simply come from innovation. In the EU case, Innovation forms a central plank of the 2020 Europe goals.
Regretfully the next Titanic is waiting to happen.
In recent months there has been considerable activity to formulate the new policies to support innovation through EU funding. The EU has been inviting dialogue and offering a mountain of guidelines and suggestion to help us all. Much of the focus is on streamlining what is already in place. I’ve called this on some different discussion blogs a little like “reorganizing the innovation deck chairs on the titanic as it heads towards an iceberg”.
There is enormous activity and pressure to perform as the past results of many of the EU initiatives have not delivered on the goals set, and there is this real urgent need to reflect upon the lessons learned from the failures of the Lisbon strategy. It does seem the present ‘effect’ is put on more steam, lighten the load where we can and let’s try and navigate through these challenges (or icebergs), no time to lose. Everyone is on high alert in Brussels and around the EU all busy doing their job to contribute to present dialogues on making innovation a success. We need to take really radical action in my view.
Perhaps we should be shouting “all stop”
Maybe we should be shouting “all stop.” Can we keep going on layering more onto a system of innovation that has not worked in many cases or provide even further policies that clearly do not fit the order of magnitude of change taking place around innovation?
We are simply shuffling the innovation deckchairs and this is not going to be enough to confront the new global innovation changes taking place. The ones that are slow to respond, regretfully the EU is a shining example of that, that lacks that real agility to read, react and respond (more the later ones, better at the reading ones in the EU’s case) is simply going to consistently lag and not lead in the new global innovation race. Can we afford that?
The EU needs to be bolder in its innovation agenda for a number of reasons:
- It does not have low costs, abundant labour resource and pricing advantage against many of its competitors. It has to leverage different competencies for advantage.
- The world is more interconnected and competitive than ever before and harnessing 27 odd members onto the same view is ‘herculean’ irrespective of the issue.
- Other nations are rapidly replicating any competitive advantage quicker than before,
- The infinite global creative workforce is forcing everyone to go where the resource (human, knowledge or natural) lies to gain economic advantage. Innovation does not respect borders.
- The multiple converging forces, perhaps a new infliction point, is, I feel, actually happening. Society is gaining empowerment and possessing the tools to shape and influence. The consumer or individual voice is growing and organizing in new ways that will radically change, in collaboration and influence.
When you are progressively stripped of those traditional past bastions of advantage, innovation needs to become THE essential core competence to survive and thrive, to respond and build around. It seems we all at least agree on that, the issue is how to go about it is where we diverge.
Stepping back is stepping up
The EU must pull back. It simply can’t continue to design, manage, fund, lead, guide and judge as an ‘all-in-one’ for innovation. It needs to stand well back. It needs to revert to what Governments or Institutions like the EU should be: the providers of the essential backbone, the infrastructure and clear the path to allow all others to find their way. It should set out the big challenges, the societal challenges, which in all fairness the EU is doing, and set about laying in this backbone or foundation for others to work from.
Innovation Business and Social Platform Ecosystems
My view as a serious proposal is to build multiple Innovation Business and Social Platform Ecosystems as part of this different thinking needed.
The EU needs to tap into the combination of strengths within the different regions for them to coalesce around the notion of Innovation Business Platform Ecosystems. It is partly developing the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) that are increasingly available, combining these with the social media platforms so a greater number of parties are working on the solutions and challenges required to resolve these BIG societal challenges.
This will be based on these eco-platform BIG challenges in an open collaboration forum where a number of different stakeholders (or actors) who have potentially different business & social model needs can come together. The scale and scope of ecosystem platforms can become the fuel of energy, knowledge, specialisation, collaborative know how for innovation to happen, that provides benefits and value to each person or entity that participates.
The Government or EU provides the necessary support and investment into this ‘innovation backbone’ to enable distributed organisational models based so interaction and collaboration can go on and looks to ‘clear the way’ for the successful delivery of personalized high-margin products/services that leverage local identity and economic structure.
Measuring Innovation Ecosystems
The aim fits the EU objectives, that is to foster an inclusive and participative society, grow wealth within the community, create jobs which supports broader economic inclusion. These ecosystems empower the creativity and the participation of all potential participants of EU regions (public and private organizations, small and micro enterprises, communities, universities, institutions, individuals and the critical final consumer) in open socio-economic processes.
Specifically the EU or the separate Governments can measure progress
I’d argue we should forget the old measuring system of the 20th century, hung over from manufacturing of measuring inputs, process, outputs, it gets too complicated. The only one I’d always keep is outcomes, as the only real measure of (commercial) progress, something the EU admits it is not good at doing- generating successful commercial outcomes.
I’d radically measure innovation differently, through:
Innovation linkages– the productivity of relationships, alliance collaborations achieved, interactions taking place, the forming of new knowledge networks, clusters and sharing of complementary assets. It evaluates the different intersections to spot new possibilities
Knowledge diffusion– the content, its value, its adoption rates and absorptive capacity within and outside the ecosystem for accessing knowledge, anchoring it (within the EU) and diffusing it on a broader scale. It can also judge knowledge response (learning).
Intangible assets– it can promote intellectual capital and facilitate long term support for innovation solutions that look promising. It can re-equip people, the most intangible element to manage better within these ecosystems.
Improve the conditions for innovation to grow– by monitoring the dynamics within these ecosystem platforms (demand, impact on society, adoption/ diffusion, skill obsolescence etc) where the commission plays the role of lead policy influencer.
Do innovation ecosystems answer all the problems?
No of course not, but it fundamentally challenges the way we are currently doing things and dismantles the way innovation is being managed today, in silo’s and national boundaries. With intervention constantly taking place at central levels is to influence, yet it regretfully constrains much about innovation today. It is not intended but clearly happening. We need to unblock these constraints and take innovation to the next level.
Innovation thrives by allowing the energy to flow in as close a natural state as it can, less rules, fewer boundaries, higher uncertainty but contained within a given universe. It cannot be tied to increasing complexity, rules and guidelines, even ‘unnatural’ innovation country borders.
The policy maker should play their new part to help to lay out the vision, the mission and provide the enabling resources to best achieve improvement for society and economic wealth, and then get out of the way of the actual process as much as possible, unless it has a clear role to provide part of the core enabling factors.
The main EU/ government role is simply to ‘fuel’ the ecosystem where it can, both in the challenges that need resolution and in providing the backbone of the system to facilitate it, not as many feel today, to direct and police it.
Be bolder EU please, our innovating future depends on it.
Maybe wishful thinking but fiddling with those innovation policy deck chairs knowing what is coming towards me is far scarier. We need to be bolder in our innovation thinking not simply rearrange and streamline the existing activities.
Innovation dynamics have simply changed. Innovation Platform Ecosystems needs serious consideration to change the innovation dynamics within Europe.