STRESS TEST OF INNOVATION POLICY IN EUROPE
The big STRESS TEST of Innovation Policy in Europe is over! We would like to thank the 600 participants who joined EUROPE INNOVA 2012 IN COPENHAGEN on 23-24 October 2012!
The conference was a success and the TEN DOGMA commandments made it possible to host the most innovative innovation policy conference for decades!
The final version of the Europe INNOVA 2012 Conference Charter: Towards an Effective European Ecosystem for Competitive New Industries is now available: Europe INNOVA 2012 Conference Charter
Read also the assessment report of the conference or five articles on the different outputs of Europe INNOVA 2012. Find it all on the list of Downloads
At Europe INNOVA 2012 participants could unburden their hearts by confessing their failures. Read some of these "confailures" here:"Confailures"
Europe INNOVA provokes policy makers to think differently
The Europe INNOVA Conference 2012, held in Copenhagen on October 23-24, was not your typical EU conference. The approach to European innovation support was unusual, slightly provocative and straight to the point. The conference featured not only the usual success stories, but also less successful policies and projects were given a central position at the event.
Expect and embrace failures
It was clear from the outset that the event was not the place to just talk about glorious outcomes of European innovation policies. It opened with Operation INNOVA, a humoristic video presenting three Danish companies, all of which had received EU funding for innovation projects. Only one was successful, another a total failure - the company had gone bankrupt.
This prompted what would be the event’s key question. Are EU’s taxpayers getting value for the vast sums of money invested in innovation support? Not an insignificant issue in light of the EU Commission’s proposed €80 billion innovation programme, Horizon 2020. First in line to answer was Thomas Alslev Christensen of the Danish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Higher Education and organiser of the Europe INNOVA Conference.
“We cannot be successful all the time when working with innovation. Some failures must be expected. What is important is that we acknowledge them and use them to improve our system every time”, Christensen said.
Perky approach to innovation policies
Ten dogma rules laid out the playing field, banning keynote speakers, Power Point presentations and dull talks about reports. The moderator, TV journalist Martin Breum, made sure that no difficult questions were left unanswered.
“The questions were tough but fair, and they are questions we pose ourselves every day as well. The directness is refreshing, it makes people think about the topics rather than just listening”, said Taake Manning from NL Agency, after debating changes to the Eurostars programme.
Among the more unusual activities were court cases where cluster managers and policy makers had to convince a jury - the audience - that they contributed to economic growth. Europe’s worst policy maker was nominated and guests were invited to confess their sins and failures in a confession booth, resulting in testimonies about everything from taking a nap at a policy conference to being seduced by fancy words in applications.
“I confess that I, on several occasions, have been blinded by project proposals full of seductive terms, stressing the importance of technological convergence, service innovation, user-centric approaches, exploratoriums and creative labs”, an anonymous participant said in the booth.
Combination of innovation support and cluster policy
The Europe INNOVA Conference 2012 addressed three main subjects - how Europe’s SMEs can best be supported in the 21st century; how support can lead to commercialisation of knowledge and inventions; and a discussion on the role of clusters and innovation networks, especially in times of crisis.
A large number of participants also made use of six different stress test laboratories, enabling them to put their policy programmes, clusters and evaluation methods to the test.
“I like the clear combination of innovation support and clusters. What we have learnt, once again, is that these two issues have to be linked”, said Dr. Gerd Meier Zu Köcker from VDI/VDE IT in Germany.
Guest stars with the finger on the pulse
All three themes revolved around concrete case stories, successful and less successful attempts at driving innovation, presented by the so-called guest stars - people who have been directly involved. These included the winner of the national Icelandic Ecotrophelia eco-food competition, Aurora Skyr. Ecotrophelia is part of the Europe INNOVA action EcoTroFood encouraging creativity, innovation and the development of food products by eco-innovative teams of students via a European competition. Also among the guest stars were administrators and applicants from a successful, but nevertheless cancelled Dutch innovation voucher scheme, and policy makers from all around Europe.
Various challenges related to venture capital were discussed, embodied in Scandinavian inventions GoalRef and Skype. Both slipped the attention of local investors and therefore received funding and created jobs elsewhere. Furthermore, Nokia’s recent fall from fame was used to exemplify the risk of being too reliant on one specific industry.
“We don’t really see a risk in the ICT sector”, said Mart Laatsit from the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communication in Estonia, which has been successful in attracting knowledge-intensive technology companies. “More and more jobs are being created in the ICT sector. If Skype were to close, other companies would be happy to hire their engineers”, he continued, stating that Skype had brought money, fame and inspiration to Estonia.
Systemic thinking to support emerging industries
The final session at the Europe INNOVA Conference 2012 was a question and answer session with Reinhard Büscher and Lisbeth Bahl Poulsen from the European Commission’s DG Enterprise and Industry.
They introduced a shift to a more systemic and inclusive approach when distributing EU innovation funding, with emphasis on making use of all forms of knowledge and supporting new industries that emerge at the crossroads of existing industries. This approach, combined with other input gathered at the event, makes up the backbone of the Europe INNOVA 2012 Charter, which is the conference’s contribution to the further development of the EU’s innovation strategies.
“I believe that we would be on a wrong track if we focus too much on how to support innovation by providing more and easier money for research and innovation projects. We must also be more open to changing economic structures through innovation. Europe needs not only more innovative entrepreneurs but also more resilient and globally competitive industrial structures that are driven by innovation and that respond to the global challenges of today”, Büscher said about the 2014-2020 funding strategy.
What was the conference about?
What happened to the two hundred thousand projects that have obtained innovation support in Europe during the past decade?
Europe INNOVA 2012 pursued some of the celebrated success stories in European Innovation:
- What made the success happen? Was it just good luck - or is there a lesson to be learned?
- Which programmes supported the success? Did the programme make a difference - or did the success happen in spite of the programme and the policy maker?
- And what happened after the award show? Can we still find any footprints of the project?
- Get information about the eleven best SME innovation support programmes in Europe! And hear a story about some of the worst programmes in Europe!
Representatives from enterprises and innovation projects, programme owners from SME programmes, R&D-collaboration programmes and cluster programmes, policy makers and evaluators were interviewed on stage.
At the conference we had a large Innovation Gallery and stress test laboratories where you could test your own programmes and policies. A set of new “self-assessment tools” was available and demonstrated. You had the possibility to test your own SMV programmes, cluster programmes, innovation system, etc. You can also learn more about stress testing cluster organisations.
Here are some of the activities you could join at the Innovation Gallery:
- Stress test your SME innovation programme: Can you learn something from Europe’s first league?
- Stress test your own cluster programme: How far away are you from the perfect programme?
- Get a pep talk about how to make the most effective innovation system
- Test yourself: How big a bureaucrat are you?
- Seize the moment at speaker’s corner and state your opinion
Who was behind?
The Danish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Higher Education wished to contribute to the discussion on how we can further develop and strengthen triple helix interaction, business research collaboration, and innovation policies throughout Europe. We will do this in close collaboration with the European Commission’s DG Enterprise and Industry and other Director Generals of the European Commission. We will develop stress test tools with experts from VDI/VDE-IT from Germany.
How did we do it?
The conference was based on a completely new innovative concept. We had made TEN DOGMA RULES FOR CONFERENCES. That was a guarantee for a different and new experience on the Europe INNOVA Conference 2012. The dogma rules are:
- No opening speeches from VIPs – important people will be those who really know what will be the future innovation policy in Europe
- No time wasted on long presentations of speakers – the programme and webpage has all the information you need on speakers
- No keynote speakers – but we can offer you access to brand new knowledge on innovation policy
- No PowerPoint presentations – the speakers will be interviewed on stage by a professional moderator
- No reports will be presented – you will get access to reports before the conference. On stage we will focus on discussions of dilemmas
- No parallel sessions – you will get access to all the wisdom of the conference.
- No quotations – participants should contribute with their own thinking, own ideas and original thoughts
- No best practice without a critical angle – all cases presented will be submitted to a stress test
- No one is allowed to be bored – minimum one good laugh per hour
- Lots of breaks – you will get the best opportunities to make contacts, dating and networking