European Innovation

I took part in a fascinating debate yesterday on the business panel on future EU innovation policy. Something has really changed around here because it’s the first time (since the Aho report on innovation) that I see truly innovative ideas emanating from one of these advisory bodies. To be sure, if this is put into practice, it would trigger a wave on innovation, renewal, modernisation throughout Europe — and it would challenge the status quo, pressure the insiders and economic incumbents, and go against the powerful conventional wisdom that so often stands in the way of doing things differently. A perfect example of why this is so necessary is a recent ruling by French regulators to prohibit an entrepreneurial company, Voltalis, that helps businesses and homes to save energy by using a smart electricity-management device. According to the ruling, Voltalis has to pay power producers for the power that its devices help save — thereby undermining its entire business model and effectively wiping out this innovative firm. You can learn more about this outrageous case here. Unfortunately, this is just one example of how powerful economic incumbents fight new, innovative, entrepreneurial endeavours. Either way, true to its spirit, the business panel on future innovation policy is opening up the process and inviting people to contribute their thoughts. So take advantage of it and leave your comments at http://blogs.ec.europa.eu/innovationunlimited/.

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  1. Dear Ann,

    I am glad we are at last talking about EU innovation policy. For too many years the EU has pushed the idea that R&D = innovation, hence the bean counting approach of the Lisbon Agenda.

    Evidence over many years has shown us that it is not the spend on R&D that helps create wealthy nations. We need to have all important aspects of innovation working well if we want to get the right results.

    Peole like Nathan Rosenberg, Eric Arnold and Amar Bhide have benn telling us for years that focusing too much attention on new knowledge as a way to improve the innovation performance of economies will not work.

    A key point here is that we have much existing knowledge which, if put together in new ways would allow a huge increase in innovative activity, starting from the position of satisfying significant unmet needs

    Europe needs to change quickly and realise that the old linear mindset of if we build it they will come is no longer acceptable

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