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U-KNOW — Result In Brief

Project ID: 28519
Funded under: FP6-CITIZENS
Country: Germany

Aligning networks for enhanced innovation

In order to develop policies that foster innovation and knowledge creation, one must understand the complex interaction among institutional frameworks, corporate cultures and socioeconomic factors that vary widely among countries and even within countries. An EU-funded initiative has tackled this issue using Social Network Theory (SNT) and the concept of network alignment with important implications for European competitiveness.
Aligning networks for enhanced innovation
SNT differs from traditional sociology approaches in that it supports the idea that attributes of individuals are less important than their relationships with others within their networks.

The ‘Understanding the relationship between knowledge and competitiveness in the enlarging European Union’ (U-KNOW) project studied the interrelatedness of enterprise, public science/higher education and government to identify missing or misaligned networks in industrialised and transitional European economies. Results should provide the basis for policy development favouring innovation.

Regarding national cultures, institutional frameworks are directly and interdependently connected to the socio-cultural attitudes of individual citizens and their subsequent innovative performance. Thus, policymakers can promote institutional frameworks that foster the socio-cultural patterns that lead to enhanced innovation.

Corporate organisations that favour innovation tend to be those with a healthy variety of ages, gender and nationalities. However, cultural differences can cause friction that decrease performance. Again, policies that positively affect corporate culture and foster tolerance enable cultural diversity to stimulate rather than hinder the innovative process.

In summary, the U-KNOW project proposed third generation (3G) innovation policy with broad inclusion in and alignment of the networks involved in knowledge creation and innovation. The researchers suggested that, given the complexity and dynamic nature of such networks, it would be more fruitful to focus on ‘better’ practices rather than ‘best practices’ to substantially and realistically improve policy alignment with the goal of enhanced European competitiveness.

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