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Some aims of the Societal Innovation Agenda’s are: to focus knowledge residing at universities and knowledge institutes on societal issues, challenge businesses to contribute their expertise to finding solutions, taking care of legislation and other obstructions that impede innovation, setting examples within sectors and between sectors, and making way for experiments. These and other measures are being implemented in the innovation programmes.
How can we meet both societal challenges and strengthen the economy?
There are limits to the already well-trodden routes in both the economic and social arenas. With current levels of growth in productivity in the public, semi-public and private sectors, meeting every challenge will be a very costly and virtually infeasible mission. The challenge for government lies in doing more with less, and in a smarter and cleaner way.
Sustainable growth in productivity is obtained as a result of a more efficient and effective use of labour and financial resources for exploiting economic opportunities and meeting social challenges. If we are able to achieve sustainable growth in productivity, then this will be visible not only
FOSTERING INNOVATION TO ADDRESS SOCIAL CHALLENGESin terms of economic growth figures, but also in the quality of our society.
Three factors play a significant role in enhancing the innovative capacity of societal sectors: talent, public and private research and innovative entrepreneurship. These factors also feature prominently on the European Union’s agenda.
When we started the societal innovation agendas in the Netherlands, we faced barriers in the innovation system that might hinder innovation to
successfully address societal challenges. The main barriers were:
insufficient cooperation between stakeholders; fragmented knowledge transfer policies; and insufficient expertise regarding support of (social) entrepreneurship in the (semi)public sector.
Insufficient cooperation and networking between stakeholders
Innovation for social challenges clearly involves a wider set of stakeholders in the process of generation of ideas, application and diffusion.
One thing is for sure, solving complex social problems by knowledge and innovation, is no longer a task of government alone, but more and more a result of cooperation between all parties in society. This stresses the importance of cooperation and networking between stakeholders.
However, this cooperation does not appear automatically. One of the reasons might be that researchers and entrepreneurs do not know each other.
This seems even more true for knowledge and innovation for social challenges. Poor demand articulation by social and business community might be a problem, but also weak incentives at knowledge institutes to take
into account the social impact of their research. So, important questions are:
How to involve business and non business agents in innovation projects addressing social challenges? Which mechanism could help the public sector to target stakeholders which normally are not included in the policy definition project?
For innovation to successfully address social challenges the importance of (new) partnerships and (new) stakeholders cannot be overrated. This has been one of the core concerns of the Dutch approach: connecting networks, crossing (sector) boundaries, searching for new and surprising combinations.
Fragmented knowledge transfer policies
Public and private research also makes an essential contribution to the solution to social challenges. Research currently underway at universities is creating breakthroughs in healthcare and security. Application-based research is being carried out at colleges of higher education, for example for
FOSTERING INNOVATION TO ADDRESS SOCIAL CHALLENGES
the purpose of putting technological and non-technological innovations into practice. Businesses, too, are engaged in research and development that is making a substantial contribution to social challenges - a case in point is the boom being experienced in the field of energy-saving technology.
However, improvement is necessary in exploiting knowledge for the economy and society. Insufficient use of research is still being made by companies and the public sector. Although the quality of Dutch research is among the best in the world, the Netherlands lag behind when it comes to actually applying it. Again, interaction between knowledge institutes, businesses and public sector organisations should be improved to allow greater exchange of knowledge and more collaboration in the development of new applications and products.
The production of knowledge and certainly the exploitation of it into economic and social relevant products and services is a question of collaboration between knowledge institutes, businesses and public organisations. Only when the exploitation of knowledge actually produces a return for researchers and entrepreneurs will there be sufficient incentive for valorisation. It is about finding the right balance between incentives for excellence in scientific performance and the dissemination of knowledge.
Insufficient expertise: regarding support of (social) entrepreneurship.
Entrepreneurship makes a valuable contribution to the growth of productivity and the power of innovation in the Netherlands. Entrepreneurs act as change agents and translate new discoveries and inventions into new products and services. Entrepreneurs seek new possibilities and make new combinations. Entrepreneurs are the drivers of change. Entrepreneurs are in an ideal position to help find solutions to social challenges, through creative and innovative products and ideas. Such challenges include a cleaner environment and more security on the streets (smart cameras). In public and semi-public sectors, too, like healthcare and education, innovative entrepreneurship is needed in order to ensure that economic and social objectives can be attained smartly and efficiently.
However, there are still impediments for innovative entrepreneurship in the public and semi-public sectors. The degree to which companies wish to innovate depends very much on the demand for innovation. In the public sectors especially, markets are either absent or not sufficiently developed.
Here, policy development and market development may very well go hand in hand. For example the role of government itself in public procurement acting as a launching customer may stimulate innovative entrepreneurship.
Strategies Which forms of policies could support innovation to address social challenges? Would we need different innovation governance? Or is the regular one in need of adjustment to respond to new developments?
Innovation to address social challenges is an emerging area where further work is needed to identify, among other issues: how to address social challenges in the frame of S&T&I policies while preserving the necessary freedom in the search for novelty of firms and research labs? How to capture the interest of relevant stakeholders for identifying social priorities? What is the institutional infrastructure which could better support this effort? Are inter-ministerial committees in a better position to coordinate the design and implementation of innovation policies for social challenges?
The complex matter of addressing social challenges by innovation asks for new forms of cooperation between different worlds. It asks for open interaction between government, industry, knowledge institutes and social organisations. The interaction between supply and demand is of great importance to define good policy. And to find out what is the real social challenge, what is needed to solve it, what are opportunities and threats, what knowledge already exists and why is it not being used yet, who is most capable for developing the knowledge and how do we make sure the knowledge developed is also being used (valorisation)? Or usable, coming out of productive interactions between “science and society”? As for ‘old’ forms of innovation, innovation to address social challenges cannot be based on a linear innovation process alone. It is the interaction between different partners that define the success of the approach. With regard to the above
mentioned barriers, important policy challenges are:
• develop an integral approach on scientific, social and economic challenges;
• deploy consistent valorisation policy;
• fostering innovative entrepreneurship;
• seek new arrangements for cooperation;
• focus on the role of government in acting as a launching customer;
• find the right incentives for all stakeholders to participate and contribute.
FOSTERING INNOVATION TO ADDRESS SOCIAL CHALLENGES
We need innovations in the field of technology, in working methods, rules and conduct. This calls for a joint approach on the part of government, knowledge institutes, the business sector and citizens. It also calls for an interdepartmental approach by government bodies, as socially based tasks often overlap through different government departments and layers of administration. An innovative, enterprise-friendly government is another requirement – one that not only supports innovations in every possible way, but also innovates itself.
1. Public Participation for Innovation Policy?
The two OECD Workshops on transforming innovations to address social challenges aimed at nothing less than a fundamental change in innovation policy concerning aims, fields and citizen’s involvement in innovation. Social challenges now play a role in defining goals and thematic fields for innovation. Innovations, which address social challenges might not be limited to technological innovations.
In the past, innovation Policy in most OECD countries has focussed on technological innovation. The conferences challenged this limitation by including on the one hand social innovations and social entrepreneurs into a modern innovation policy, and on the other hand dialog processes to give societal stakeholders the possibility to contribute to the definition, selection and prioritisation of thematic fields of innovation.
Many OECD countries have in recent years started dialogue processes to involve citizens in innovation policy. These dialogue processes generally draw on the experiences of participative deliberative democracy and use deliberative tools. Therefore, it makes sense to have a look on a couple of important deliberative methods, which are used for explorative or collective binding decision making.
When innovations shall meet social demands, one has to understand social demands. Public participation is the political involvement of citizens in public decision-making on different levels, from local, regional, national even to supranational level.
In this chapter, we analyse various forms of direct and deliberative democracy in order to assess their applicability for a participative innovation policy. Only for pragmatic reasons we focus on Germany. In next steps, it would be necessary to compare experiences with different participative tools in different countries. The broader concept of public involvement, alongside public participation in politics in the narrower sense, also encompasses