European Innovation

I was present at the launch of a manifesto entitled “Fixing the Future” which was presented yesterday in the margins of the SIX summer school on social innovation. This is a timely initiative that deserves broad support. It certainly has mine. In a nutshell, it was written in response to the recovery packages that were enacted across Europe late last year/early this year. We are talking about a lot of money here. Together with automatic stabilisers it amounts to about 4% of GDP. This kind of investment in an economy you can make perhaps once in a generation, and that is why it is crucial that it is an investment for the future, not an effort to cement the past. The authors of the manifesto are rightfully concerned that a lot of the stimulus spending is going into bailing out the industries of the past, rather than empowering the entrepreneurs – and creating the jobs – of the future. At the same time, we need a massive and sustained investment in skills, allowing every person to capitalise on his or her potential. Now is not a time to scrap education, research and innovation budgets – to the contrary. Now is a time to launch a massive investment programme in our most precious resource, our citizens, our human capital, our dreams and aspirations. Now is not a time to turn conservative and risk averse, now is a time to take on new challenges heads-on and experiment with policy options. To be sure, building the “green economy” is nothing short of a second industrial revolution. Making the “knowledge economy” come true necessitates a paradigmatic shift in mindset that sees the potential of people rather than their limitations. Turning Europe into a “dynamic, entrepreneurial economy” means empowering change agents, embracing disruptive innovation and instilling confidence that the future can be better than the past. And all of this needs massive, sustained investment because despite all the rhetoric, a political priority that is not a budget priority is not a political priority. I hope you will like the “fixing the future” manifesto as much as I do, and I look forward to taking part in the Brussels launch event next week.

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