- A new way of innovating
- At the Lisbon Council in March, the EU adopted the 'open co-ordination' approach to policy-making, whereby experience throughout the Member States is set out as a series of 'benchmarks' from which everybody can learn. One of the first areas in which it has been applied is innovation, in the form of the European Trend Chart on Innovation. The Enterprise DG's manager for the Trend Chart project, Peter Löwe, sees the benchmarking process as perhaps heralding the birth of a European model of policy-making.
- The virtual economy gets real
- Mention innovation or the knowledge economy, and most people think
of the dot.com gold rush - a virtual economy that exists only in the
rarefied atmosphere of cyberspace. The problems experienced by some
of the new start-ups make it seem even more remote and ephemeral. If
the bubble has burst, can't we just ignore it anyway? The answer is
a loud and emphatic no. The internet is just one symbol, albeit the
most recognisable one, of the most challenging phenomenon of the modern
age: the creation of the knowledge-driven economy. This is as real,
and as radical, as the changes brought about by the industrial revolution;
it's happening at a much faster pace; and it will touch us all. Traditional
firms as well as high-tech companies will find themselves facing new
opportunities - and new threats and challenges.
Whether they prosper - even whether they survive - depends on how
they embrace the knowledge economy, which, in turn, depends on how ready
they are for innovation. Ultimately, this will be decided at enterprise
level. But the policy framework is crucial. The role of policy-makers
at European and national level is to set the broad policy lines for
enhancing innovation in the European Union. And it needs to be based
on accurate, up-to-date information on what exactly the state of the
art of European innovation is.
Those involved in the innovation process at all levels have two new
additions to their toolkit: a new Communication from the European Commission
defines policy lines for the next four years; and the European Trend
Chart on Innovation provides key information which underpins and informs
those policy lines.
- Policy-making can never be an exact science, especially in an area like innovation, which by definition can never be anything other than dynamic, even chaotic. The key to creating a successful innovation policy framework lies in basing it not just on accurate information, but on information of a certain kind. There is a need for more than raw data about the current state of innovation in the EU. Snapshots by themselves are no good. What is vital is analysis - trend-spotting - a picture not just of where we are, but of where we are heading. That is the rationale behind an ambitious project launched in 1999, which has now published its first annual report: the European Trend Chart on Innovation.