Needed next: innovative innovation policy

Michael Harris, writing on the NESTA blog Making Innovation Flourish, says that Innovation policy needs to be more like innovation:

The innovation that  matters most differs between sectors.Obvious really, but it’s easier to recognise than it is  to design policy for.

NESTA’s new research report,Hidden Innovation, examines six sectors  that, at least according to traditional measures like R&D, have low rates of  innovation. But sectors such as oil production and construction do innovate,  just in different ways. In oil production, innovation is the development and  application of technologies in the field. In construction, it’s more about the  adoption of new working methods and materials. Neither form of innovation is  based primarily on university or corporate lab research which is then applied  and commercialised – the so-called linear model of  innovation.

The new policy agenda for innovation –  developing approaches that stimulate and support the different forms of  innovation that matter in different sectors – will need a new approach to policy  development. In effect, in the past we have relied on a linear model for policy  development: do some research (privately); analyse the results; develop and  launch a pilot programme; evaluate the impact before deciding whether to  roll-out as a full ‘product’.

Much innovation in industry no longer  works in this way. It’s collaborative, interactive, incremental, experimental,  open. Not words usually associated with policy development, let alone  politics.

At the event to launch the NESTA  research, Alistair Darling, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (and  possibly the next Chancellor of the Exchequer) announced the intention to form  ‘sector innovation groups’ with industry partners (and NESTA) to discuss and  develop new policies to support innovation in service sectors of the economy.  Does this approach – potentially innovative in itself - represent the future of  policy development for innovation?

The thinking the Michael outlines reflects the ideas behind the open innovation exchange ... but does it reflect the way the Third Sector innovates at present? Maybe not. That why it needs to change...

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