Some random ideas and thoughts I got from participating in a debate hosted at the Suitable for Business 2013 conference (Copenhagen, Denmark). The debate was between Kim Brinckmann (from the Ministry of Science, Innovation and Higher Education), Hanne Leth Andersen (Pro-rector of Roskilde University), Morten Kold (creative director at the agency 2+1) and Rasmus Brygger (National president of a Danish youth party) and moderated by Thomas Buch-Andersen (Danmark Radio).
The discussion was sparkled by the report presented by Kim Brinckmann. Here you can find all the documentation about the innovations strategy that Denmark is planing to implement. As I understood, the problem is that although Denmark is ranked as an “innovation leader” (according to the latest EU Commission’s report “Innovation Union Scoreboard 2013“), it does not translate it enough into growth in terms of GDP.
The innovation strategy will ensure that more of Denmark’s knowledge and business positions of strength are translated to new jobs and growth. It will support a more goal-oriented Danish approach to creating innovative solutions to global societal challenges. The innovation strategy contains 27 policy initiatives regarding research, innovation and education. It focuses on a better knowledge exchange between companies and knowledge institutions, across borders and between the public and private sector.
Some of the points of the proposed strategy are very interesting, like giving some business oriented education to the students and PhD candidates. I agree to that. However, I’m not so sure that limiting the research by very specific projects and partnerships will foster creativity and innovation. Mr. Brinckmann has mentioned one of such partnership would be in the field of pig production. How many innovative methods of pig farming can you create? Reminds me of the old creativity boost task – what can you do with a brick?
But at the end of the day it will be only a solution to one particular problem. Researchers will produce innovation in one very narrow area, but they will stop producing general knowledge about how things are around us. We’ll need to learn to package our ideas about a general mechanism that can be applied to a variety of situations into a box addressed for specific needs. But then how the innovativeness in that particular area will be transferred to other domains? Or it’s not the aim?
I understand that research results should reach the society, the intended user, in one way or another, but from the other hand, all of the research shouldn’t be completely market driven. If we think back to the biggest discoveries – there wasn’t a need for them from the society. In some instances the society was even against. It took years until they got accepted and applied, like observations of Copernicus or the use of soap in hospitals.
The government wants us to innovate, but when we do the scientific society doesn’t really support this process. Both the industries and the research institutions talk about cross-disciplinary research and applications. However, when it comes to reporting the results – it’s a very difficult task. There is no platform for that.
There will be something happening in the scientific bubble soon, I think. The demand for publications is so high these days, that one single study is being chopped into parts, into smaller pieces in order to produce more papers, in hope of more citations, the struggle to get into a journal with a high impact factor, etc…. In the end we loose track and the big picture…
I agree with another speaker at the conference – Anne Skare Nielsen (Future Navigator) when she says that right now we experience abundance of solutions and we do not need more, but we should use what is here already. Productivity should be about creating more value, producing meaning and meaningful stuff and gross national happiness.
We do not need more soap. We need more people that can teach others how to use it.
Why exactly do we need more innovation? For statistics? Why not instead of aiming at creating more innovations, aim at creating opportunities for make a better use of what is already there?
Sometimes less is more!
Anne Skare Nielsen (Future Navigator) at Suitable for Business 2013 conference, Copenhagen, Denmark