Our dreams of Norway as an innovation nation are now gathered between two limits. In the main report from Drømmeløftet (Innovation Norway, 2015) we find both the year’s version of Innovation Language and the approaches to a new innovation policy. And the discussion is about: Are there too little seed resources for the basics? Is it public or the market to be taught about innovation? Is there innovation under the auspices of single entrepreneurs or entrepreneurship in larger companies that are most important? And not least, is the business or public sector the most important to achieve the goals? These are important discussions that Innovation Norway now addresses, and in a way that differs from many other state-owned strategic processes. This appears as a process of openness both in terms of participation and approaches.
However, the report can also be interpreted as a settlement with myths. Both myths about innovation, but also rationality, goal management, the importance of research and, not least, the individual perspective that has influenced innovation policy since the 1980s.
Firstly, humility is in the pursuit of the «innovation race», on clear definitions and on what is the recipe. It’s a good thing that basically is not an answer, but good questions that also stimulate radical new answers.
Secondly, the report is critical of traditional indicators and criteria for innovation used in the EU Innovation Scoreboard. It emphasizes the strength of trust, relationships and everyone’s skills and the deviation between what we should achieve in terms of competitiveness and quality of life. The OECD has called The Norwegian Puzzle. The dream promise shows in a good way that there may be a greater need to change the map than the terrain in Innovation Norway.
Thirdly, it is challenged to a greater extent than the previous concept of research and the importance of researchers for innovation. This is also reflected in the EU’s Flagship for Research, Horizon 2020, which places greater emphasis on research being part of processes based on social needs.
And this relates to a fourth relationship, namely that innovation should be more closely linked to the societal challenges. And as mentioned in this year’s Innovation Language: «We are well-off to be an important supplier for solutions to the seven societal challenges the EU has defined, including health, sustainable food production, clean energy, and efficient use of resources.»
And we are approaching a fifth relationship that may be the most basic, namely the idea that there are individuals and soothsayers (the lonely grounds) that are essential. In rare words, it is stated: «… there are too many individual companies without growth potential or ambitions for other than paying their own salaries.»
Finally, the report points out that the concept of innovation can and should be expanded. Both social innovation and social innovation are discussed. In this context, it is tempting to quote Johan P. Olsen (2004): «My interpretation is that the increased emphasis on the commercialization aspect of the innovation concept is an expression of displacements in the power relations between professions, organizations, institutions and communities, more than an expression of the actual societal need for more innovation, and a better knowledge base for analyzes of variations in the ability of innovation and conversion. »
In practice, this means, for example, schemes that facilitate innovation through cooperation between the public sector, industry, civil society and R & D environments. In this perspective, social innovation is both a matter of innovation in, for and by the public sector and far more than a question of innovative procurement.
The most positive thing with the Dream Promise is that many good questions are asked and poor answers are given. For us who are keen on society and innovation this is good news. It will be exciting to keep track of and maybe even get involved in the work that is currently under way to develop interaction models, programs with associated funding that stimulate sector-wide innovation, and not least a language that allows for innovation for all .
In fact, we can choose if we are going to dream away or wake up and see the opportunities in the new societal challenges.
Lars Wang, general manager insam as and Nina Solberg, general manager of the West Region
Photo frontpage / CC: Jaap Joris