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Sustainable development cannot exist without an innovation policy

Finland’s successful innovation policy is facing new challenges. Although our innovation environment has been viable, it may not be capable of responding to global changes. This is the opinion of Antti Hautamäki, Director of Innovation Research for Sitra, in his book to be published on Thursday 31 January in which he calls for sustainable innovation policy.

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Report: Sustainable Innovation – Can an innovation policy meet the new challenges?

Finland’s successful innovation policy is facing new challenges. Although our innovation environment has been viable, it may not be capable of responding to global changes. This is the opinion of Antti Hautamäki, Director of Innovation Research for Sitra, in his book to be published on Thursday 31 January in which he calls for sustainable innovation policy.

– Perhaps the most significant global change is climate change, says Hautamäki. – Sustainable innovation is a reaction to the need to harness creativity and innovation potential to promote sustainable development. So far, the rationale behind innovation policies has been productivity and economic growth. In future, we must place well-being before economic growth. In the optimum scenario, these goals need not be in conflict.

Reassessing technology policies

According to Hautamäki, the principles of sustainable innovation are sustainable development, participation, ongoing global innovation and innovative leadership. His book provides an in-depth discussion on the field of innovation activities in the light of these tenets.

– We must reassess technology policies, says Hautamäki. – Technology alone cannot guarantee a company’s success. It will be increasingly vital to develop customer-oriented services and new business models. Technology is there to bring added value. Often, the required technology is available on the international markets, it need not be developed. Therefore, increasing technology funding any further will no longer have the desired impact.

Rather Hautamäki would like to see the additional pubic resources allocated to research and development to be spent on developing universities. It will be particularly important to improve teaching resources and to provide funding for long-term basic research of the highest level. The university structure should also be changed so that there would be four to five world-class research universities in Finland. Taking into consideration the geography and population distribution of Finland, it is highly justified to locate some of these universities outside the Helsinki Metropolitan Area also. Hautamäki points out that it is as important to improve the quality of research and teaching as it is to promote structural development. Here, competition for funding, researchers and students could act as an incentive. The introduction of term fees should also be considered.

Local and open environments facilitate innovations

What kind of environment would then be beneficial for sustainable innovation? According to Hautamäki, the best “innovation ecosystems” are local, dynamic and open environments in which there is top-level research, adequate funding for new competence-based companies, high-standard business services, a skilled workforce and a diverse set of enterprises. Most importantly, however, this “ecosystem” would nurture creativity, encouraging experimentation and risk taking and close cooperation between different actors. Innovation activities are no longer an internal matter for companies, they have been outsourced and distributed. Innovations are created in collaboration with clients, end-users, research institutes and other enterprises.

– In addition to the national development perspective, Finland should invest in five to six innovation clusters, in which the ‘ecosystem’ would be among the best in the world. We also need new tools for supporting decentralised innovation activities, says Hautamäki.

Hautamäki’s book is primarily aimed at those involved in developing innovation activities and it offers material also for the expansion of the national innovation strategy.

Further information

Sitra Innovations and Solutions
Antti Hautamäki, Director, Sitra: +358 50 563 9464, firstname.lastname@sitra.fi
Sitra Communications
Laura Niemi, Communications Manager, tel. +358 50 373 8602, firstname.lastname@sitra.fi

Publication details: Sustainable Innovation – Can Finland’s Can an innovation policy meet the new challenges? Antti Hautamäki
Sitra Reports 76, Sitra 2008

You can order the report from Sitra, tel. +358 (9) 618 991, e-mail: julkaisut@sitra.fi. The report can also be downloaded in PDF format (in Finnish).

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