Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Innovative EU – A message at the end of the Lithuanian presidency

The global innovation and systemic thinking spiral keeps spinning: Slovenia, Portugal, Austria, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Vietnam, Taiwan, Brazil, and now Lithuania. It is interesting to be engaged in discussion on the EU perspective again. Especially, when being exposed to diverse global views for over a year (world-wide conferences, sessions, projects). Can I tell a difference? Yes I can. The EU is quite trapped in administrative, top down thinking. This is even more apparent in the search for the winning approach to innovation.

The meeting in Vilnius gave me an impression that we still believe and are stuck in the belief that the rise of innovation culture in EU could be achieved by a top down approach; by steering innovation through a predefined top down set of rules, when the experiences from the field show that the grass roots needs ought to meet the top down needs in order to achieve a truly sustainable solution. The thrivable projects show that we should be looking into a successful intertwining of both approaches based on the network philosophy. We still put all our hopes in R&D and in patents when it is obvious that innovation is also about emergence, cross-structural cooperation (cultural, industrial, sectorial, regional, …), unpredictability, especially in the realm of the SMEs that seem to be a big hope for any rejuvenation of the EU economy. Yet, we try to squeeze the SMEs into the mind set of big corporations – one of the clear messages given was that only those SMEs that cooperate with the RD institutions will be granted support from the EU. Simultaneously, we see at grass roots level that more and more innovations are emerging from  open innovation circles. More and more SMEs are giving up on patents, and they (we) just ride the wave of being “the first on the market”. The speed of changes, the rise of opportunities, and the lack of resources for patenting are contributing to that largely. Even the administration has to notice that. Let us see the key messages.

Photo: The conference poster Vilnius 2013
Source: Vibacom

I. The Horizon 2020 program starts in December 2013!!

Slovenia, are you ready? This program is a continuation of the previous programs in the field of innovation. Those that were not following the indications of the past will end up stuck deeply in the mud of the banks of the main river. We need action! See what is coming!

The new EU program for research and innovation for 2014 – 2020 has 79 billion EUR available for an innovation breakthrough, The EU is trying to bypass some of the obstacles from the past: namely, by
-    responding directly to the economic  situation
-    an integrated program coupling research to innovation
-    challenged based agenda (clean energy, health, transport)
-    strong focus (20%) on SME
-    open to the world (co-operation with continents are welcome)
-    major simplification (of systems, trust, less reporting,).

It will directly address 3 major areas:
1.    EXCELLENCE In SCIENCE (frontiers, emergence, career opportunities, infrastructure) - individual researches.
2.    INDUSTRIAL LEADERSHIP (nano-technologies, bio-technologies, ICT – the needs of the industries)
3.    SOCIETAL CHALLENGES – communities, fundamental society challenges.

There will be a strong focus on:
-    SMEs: in collaborative projects, a new SME instrument, simplification, eurostars joint program, support measures under Innovation in SMEs.
-    Internationalization: encouragement for collaboration outside the EU – India, Brazil, China, Norway, Switzerland.
-    INDUSTRY: innovative medicine initiative, clean Sky, Fuel Cell and Hydrogen, Bio-based industries, Electronic components and systems
-    JOINT PUBLIC CLUSTERS: Metrology Research, Eurostars, Active and Assisted Living.

It will seek the following simplifications:
-    a single set of rules,
-    simpler reimbursements,
-    faster time to grant approvals, and permissions,
-    fewer but better targeted controls and audits,
-    coherent implementation,
-    simplification in grant agreements.

Photo: Innovation visions of the Baltic States
Source: organizator of the conference

II. Regional development is important and has to me fully supported

We have seen and heard many good, and some not so good presentations on how  regional development, including innovation could be achieved and measured. The fact is, that innovation will become an important topic for regional development. What worries me is that those in charge of the measuring mechanisms (the leading partners) have probably never been involved, or experienced, any regional innovation development. They try to use an old industry innovation model that includes patents and jobs and industry statistics for measuring the innovation level of a region. Quite absurd and not at all relevant. I hope the comments and views of practitioners gave those in charge enough materials to work with in order to sense and comprehend the specifics and the potentials of regional innovation development and that the final proposals will be more realistic and useful.

Photo: Violeta Bulc and the Heart of Slovenia team
at the Innovation Forum 2013
Source: organizator of the conference


Main Principles for Shaping European Innovation Policy

Adopted by Vilnius Innovation Forum “Innovation Drift” on 4.-6. December 2013

The participants of the first Vilnius Innovation Forum 2013. “Innovation Drift” have agreed upon/concluded the declaration “Main principles for shaping European innovation policy”, which reads as follows:
1.    Emphasises the importance of Member States continueing to increase investments in research and innovation…
2.    Emphasises that European countries have to continue to put joint effort into creating a common European Innovation Ecosystem, and recognizes  first and foremost that united and coordinated European, regional and local innovation policies and adequate R&D funding can contribute to the Europe`s sustainable development and competitiveness....
3.    Stresses the importance of collaboration between European countries, especially increasing synergies between different regional, national and EU research and innovation policy areas...
4.    Encourages the promotion of entrepreneurship, establishing innovative start-up and spinoff companies in European countries; recognizes SME`s as a future engine of economic growth….
5.    Recognizes the need to continue the support under Horizon 2020 to Public-private partnerships (PPPs) as vehicles to encourage the further collaboration...
6.    Underlines that the “2010 Innovation Union flagship” initiative provides a number of valuable...
7.    Underlines the need to implement and develop Horizon 2020 as a program aimed at addressing global societal challenges. Open innovation, demand and user-driven approaches in innovation policies, including green and sustainable innovation...
8.    Stresses the importance of  bridging the gap between research and market ...
9.    Underlines the importance of creativity, non-technological innovation and improved standards for industrial competitiveness, and emphasizes the creation of cross synergies between the cultural and creative industries and the traditional industries.
10.    Stresses the importance of delivering simplification, both in terms of a reduced administrative burden in all public R&D programs...
More: the full text of the declaration

Photo: Over 600 participants at the Innovation Forum 2013
Source: organizator of the conference

And at the end let me say a few words about my experience of Lithuania, or, to better put it, with Vilnius and the participants at the conference. First, many people looked like Slovenians, an incredible facial resemblance really encouraged me to research this phenomena further. Secondly, the architecture of Vilnius is very clean, spacey, and creative. The city is welcoming, open, really well laid out. The touch of design is present everywhere; it has a positive impact on people. Innovation thinkers understand more and more that they have to find their own, unique approach to innovation that will include local characteristics (cultural, history, competence). I saw many very advanced and practical solutions at the expo that enriched the conference: mobile, fast gadget for testing quality and freshness of meat and fish,  advanced dental tools and equipment for assessing the quality of teeth, electrical drive for bicycles and electrical cars, food scanning machine for orthopedic applications, great tools for mobile games, etc. Thank you Lithuania, thank you Vilnius!

Photo: Vilnius by nigh
Source: Vibacom

Let’s move on to 2014 with a creative energy that seeks to, and can, do good for individuals, society and this great planet Earth as a whole. Let us step out of the old models and dare to create a radical society that will allow the prosperity of the  human race in peaceful co-existance with the rest of the Nature. We all deserve that!

We wish you a prosperous 2014, Violeta

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