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Open Innovation as Key to Europe’s future


Earlier this month, the Lisbon Council hosted the 2010 Innovation Summit in Brussels. The event focused on the changing nature of Innovation within the EU, and how it needs to become more open, collaborative and  interdisciplinary.

Some memorable quotes from the Panel – which included representatives from the EU, Google, OECD and Lisbon Council – include:

Andrew Wyckoff, Director – Science, Technology and Industry, OECD:

Governments sit on huge repositories of data, much of which they collect through their normal administrative functions, but some of which they’re paying for. Clinical trails…R&D that doesn’t make any progress; Failures. That’s useful information that should be put out into knowledge networks and markets…We need new markets for knowledge.

Martin Schuurmans, Chairman, European Institute of Innovation and Technology noted:

In addition to open innovation, a structural change in Europe’s innovation ecosystem also requires the full integration of the knowledge triangle; that is of higher education, research and business/innovation. To unleash Europe’s innovation potential, borders between academia and business, between teaching and research must be broken and made largely subordinate to entrepreneurship, which should be both the glue and the driver to success in innovation within the knowledge triangle

Rian Liebenberg, Engineering Director, Google:

…New Innovations face the battle of new versus old. Enabling innovations that could disrupt old ways of doing things to be successful, and not burdened by restrictive covenants..is not going to move us forward and make things better.

Along with this he outlined his ideas for Innovation policy as: Putting the consumer first; Removing barriers to innovation; Ensuring diversity in the hiring process and Encouraging risk taking for large companies.

Máire Geoghegan-Quinnn, called on Europe to step up its innovation performance, outlining how transformative changes should be used to address “grand challenges”. She went on to say:

We need to connect up and speed up innovation along the whole policy chain, from research to retail.

We are seeing the emergence of a new type of business, which co-innovates with its customers and even its competitors, and which, rather than relying solely on its own employees, puts some of its data into the public realm, to leverage the talents and insights of the global research community.

[…] The secret to success now lies in collaboration across borders and cultures. That is why we must have a single, unified research area in Europe, within which researchers and knowledge can move around freely.

Innovation is no longer the preserve of a select elite. It is needed in every walk of life…We are all innovators now – and the task ahead is to build, not just the “i-conomy”, but a cohesive and prosperous “i-society.”

European Innovation at a Crossroads

The event was underpinned by the launch of a new report Wikinomics and the Era of Openness: European Innovation at a Crossroads. The report author, Anthony D. Williams is co-author of Wikinomics, and a senior fellow at the Lisbon Council explained how collaboration was an integral aspect of the innovation process.

We’re in a period now where all institutions in a society need to be innovative. The key source of innovation today is new forms of collaboration, where institutions can reach out and tap into new sources of skills and capabilities by collaborating with people in their broader ecosystem…

Governments collaborating with citizens and non-profit organisations…it’s these collaborative models that will inevitably drive new forms of innovation and value creation in every institution…

What we need today are much more customised, interactive and collaborative public services, services where citizens themselves actually get engaged in not just designing the service, but in cases even delivering the services. Citizens become part of the value creation process.

Governments need to be more transparent. They need to be more collaborative. They need to engage with citizens and they need to look for new ideas, new innovations. Not just within the confines of the bureaucracy, but in the broader society in which they are a part.

The report examines the economic challenges facing Europe and demonstrates how Europe can benefit from increasing knowledge sharing, raising creativity and encouraging social innovation.

The key findings of the study include:

  • Not all innovation occurs in laboratories; simply raising R&D spending (though important) is not enough to make Europe a global innovation leader. A new paradigm — openness — is replacing the old closed innovation systems, based on rigid protection of patents and other IP laws. The strength of openness is that it brings the intellectual and creative capacities of more and more people to bear on complex problems and problem solving.
  • Web 2.0 and mass collaboration will reshape the nature of education, science and government. And, they could provide solutions to complex problems ranging from climate change to energy security
  • Wherever possible, companies, countries and individuals should embrace open standards as a way of encouraging innovation…For example, an “open source” energy grid could introduce new innovation to an outmoded sector and bring greater consumer awareness and a sense of community to making ordinary household and business decisions that reduce carbon footprints.
  • Europe is uniquely placed to thrive in this new era of “open” innovation; research excellence and cultural diversity are huge assets, so long as countries look beyond national borders and draw more knowledge from global and intra-national innovation webs
  • Europe should require 80% of all publicly funded research to be available in open source journals after a short, six-month embargo under the Eighth Framework Programme, which is due to be adopted in 2014.

Role of Government

Speaking of government’s role in the Innovation process the report says (p25/26):

The first wave of digitally-enabled “e-government” strategies delivered some important benefits. It made government information and services more accessible to citizens while creating administrative and operational efficiencies. But too many of these initiatives simply paved the cow paths – that is, they focused on automating existing processes and moving existing government services online. This next wave of innovation presents an historic occasion to fundamentally redesign how government operates, how and what the public sector provides, and ultimately, how governments interact and engage with their citizens. Digital citizens increasingly expect to be partners in governance, not bystanders. It is time governments at all levels abandon their monopoly over the policy process in favour of participatory models that invite input – and ownership – at all stages of development, from problem definition and analysis, to identifying strategic options and making decisions. This goes far beyond the Internet consultations that for instance the European Commission occasionally conducts, or the blog of a government official. Instead, it is a process of opening up processes that have hitherto been closed and making governance and government more transparent, more accountable and more understandable.

European leaders can and must rise to these challenges. Government will either play an active and positive role in its own transformation, or change will happen to it. The transformation process is at the same time exhilarating and painful, but the price of inaction would be even worse: a lost opportunity for government to redefine its role in society and help launch a new era of participatory European governance.

The Market is the Message

Various policy ideas above are already outlined by different countries throughout the Union. However, the OECD noted that there is a need for an “upgrade” in policies for Innovation. This update should focus on embracing more than just R&D, but the bundling of associated services, software and “network” capital. Along with this collaborative / open models must be embraced (e.g. the release of open government data for the development of government as a platform applications), both between scientists, business and governments.

In his address, Martin Schuurmans spoke about how Entrepreneurship was ‘key’ – and often times more important than R&D – to developing new products and creating employment. As such, the EU should take the lead with initiatives similar to that of the Obama Administration, but particularly a focus on promoting Competitive Markets that Spur Productive Entrepreneurship. A culture and environment that promotes risk taking and allows companies to be internationally competitive in a global exchange of ideas and innovation is critical. Developing these competitive markets through which innovations can diffuse and scale is perhaps more important than increasing spending on R&D.

About the Lisbon Council

The Lisbon Council is a European think tank and policy network “committed to defining and articulating a mature strategy for managing current and future challenges.” It seeks strategies based on inclusion, opportunity and sustainability that will make the benefits of modernisation available to all our citizens.

Founded in 2003, the Lisbon Council is incorporated in Belgium as an independent, non-profit and non-partisan association.

For more see www.lisboncouncil.net and or @lisboncouncil.

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