December 17, 2012
Why is innovation important? The obvious reason is that innovation is the catalyst of development and economic growth. Job creation, positive outlook for the populous – these are also consequences of well managed innovation. Over the past 2 weeks myself, Alex Ghita and Euronomist have been developing an idea on funding innovation at a pan-EU level. Arguments have been brought up, points debated and conclusions explained. If nothing else, it was a very good exercise of nomad think-tanking, if I may call it that. Governance and financing mechanism have been presented. (check Alex’s p & Euronomist’s   blogs)
There is one more important aspect to be considered – the people. Understanding and aspiring to innovation is just as important as innovating. And whilst many desire innovation, there are few out there that actually push forward with truly innovative ideas. So it is to be expected that in early stages of such a financing program most of the “innovative” ideas will be niche exploitation of existing businesses. Which even if irredeemable after a certain point can in fact help by creating jobs and momentum.
But to achieve true innovation, to go past what is traditional, this program has to also address education. I would dedicate a significant part of such a budget to introducing innovation in schools, as early as primary. It can be experimental at first, using games and requiring youngsters to develop the skills to problem solving outside traditional patterns. Introducing programs in high-schools and faculties would only increase positive output in a say a decade. There is this idea that if for example you want to motivate students to create something new you need to put up a competition with a significant prize to get them interested. How about 100 competitions with 100 smaller prizes. One every week, one every day if it must. True, most of the output is not going to be brilliant as hell, but out of 100 pools at least 10 are going to be worth while. And if you brew a significant part of the population to innovate, that is exactly what they will do, given time and resources.
The other thing to use money on that is also important in my view is to finance acceptance of innovation – the people working for the Sovereign Funds Euronomist imagined have to understand innovation and perceive it when it’s being presented. They have to be organised as multidisciplinary teams with a high degree of penetration to outside know-how should the need arise. In more ways than one, the teams that work for the Sovereign Fund have to be innovative in their own way.
And third, let innovation flow. Past a certain point, which can be registering the product/ design/ idea, innovation has to be set free. Because open systems always advance faster and produce more result than closed and secretive ones. I don’t mean to abolish the competitive advantage of the innovator, but more to allow the idea to be improved continuously, so as to create a sort of yeast. This yeast, as in the baking industry, should be the basis for further developing batches of yeast, continuously maintaining a life line with the original yeast.
This will allow the financing scheme the ability to grow a pedigree if you will. In time the Fund could operate almost independent of EU funding, by attracting investment from other funds and redistributing it through its patented scheme which can only work in the EU, with all member countries. And once that point is reached, the sky is the limit. Or maybe Pluto.