How do you make Europe a global pro-innovation actor?

25 November 2015


Report by Matthew Wright, AHRC-Funded CSaP Policy Intern (September 2015 - December 2015)

This week, CSaP held a Policy Workshop for the European Commission's Senior Adviser on Innovation to President Juncker - Robert Madelin. Robert, a CSaP Policy Leaders Fellow, kicked off the meeting by asking participants: "If innovation is the output of a complex system, what politically feasible systemic steps could be taken to get the innovation machine working better?"

The purpose of the workshop, chaired by Professor Andy Neely (Head of the Institute for Manufacturing at Cambridge), was to distil policy-relevant insights from the deep knowledge and experience of the Cambridge innovation ecosystem.

The workshop came at an important time for the EU and its member states. If Europe is to keep its 'place in the sun' then it needs to become more competitive in the way that it fosters and utilizes innovation. This will involve decisions about how governments act as procurers and regulators, how private investment is used as part of the mix, and how universities can work as geographical hubs to attract people and resources.

At the same time, the current EU approach to innovation has been challenged. In his paper in Future Directions for Scientific Advice in Europe, Professor Andy Stirling argued that "the language of 'pro-innovation' policy, without saying which innovation or why, is particularly erosive of accountability." Such concerns have not gone unnoticed: a theme which emerged from discussion at the workshop was the importance of placing citizens at the heart of institutions designed to promote innovation.

It was with this background that Professor Alan Hughes (Cambridge Judge Business School), Staffan Ingvarsson (Stokab), Anne Miller (Creativity Partnership) and Professor Jaideep Prabhu (Cambridge Judge Business School) addressed a number of questions: What policy, regulatory and financial initiatives could better position Europe as a pro-innovation actor in the global context? What are the unsuspected prime issues? What are the familiar but overrated or even counter-productive themes? Where are the blind alleys?

Discussions ranged from the relationship between the size of a company and innovation, to the role of local, national and supranational governance and on to ways in which to control and shape flows of private capital to encourage innovation.

Robert Madelin described participants at the workshop as "a pretty stellar cast from digital, bio, space and advanced manufacturing, including venture capitalists, policy makers, and thinkers."

He went on to say: "I was touched by the speed and efficiency with which CSaP could respond to an enquiry out of the blue as to where insights could be had. The resulting conversations have been most useful."

The workshop influenced the European Commission report Opportunity Now: Europe's Mission to Innovate, which is available here.

(Banner image from Casper Zoethout on Flickr)