New rules for innovation

by claudia on June 8, 2011

The European Union’s situation in global perspective is changing very rapidly through the rise of the so-called BRIC countries: Brazil, Russia, India and China. These rising states are becoming dominant and will set the new rules in the future. Therefore it is expedient to prepare for altering circumstances. In The Netherlands, TNO helps to develop an innovation policy that is anticipating what is coming up.

‘The European Union is more important than ever for European countries’, says Tom van der Horst, head of the strategy and policy department of TNO. ‘For instance in China the role of the government in economic development and innovation is much stronger than in the western world. Market protectionism and export control of scarce minerals are expressions of it. The free market approach as we have known it in the last century, will no longer be the only economic paradigm. The role of governments in international trade, economic development and innovation will become more important’.

Develop a new, shared vision

Why is the European Union so important? Van der Horst: ‘Most countries in Europe are too small to set the agenda in this global arena, and therefore strong cooperation within Europe is a must. With Europe 2020 and the Innovation Union, the European Union already has a strong vision on economic growth and innovation. The challenge will be to find out, if this agenda is robust in a rapidly changing global environment with new rules for economic growth, trade and innovation.

Reveal what is happening

In The Netherlands, the TNO strategy group has been working at different processes of change, on regional, national and European level for years. ‘We are used to perform strategic studies and develop societal analyses on innovation systems, making us experts in this field. To put it concretely, we make foresights, we support the development of agendas and policy interventions, monitor innovation processes and we evaluate innovation policy.’ We try to reveal what is happening, without exerting pressure in a political way. ‘Politicians have to become aware of what is happening, globally and what will be the consequences for innovation and industrial policy. Moreover they should work out political perspectives.’

Urgency and inspiration

Do the European countries recognize the urgency of the situation? ‘I doubt it. As far as The Netherlands are concerned, the general feeling is that we sincerely think that we are more important and still stronger than we really are. In fact we have fallen into arrears with countries like China and India, in many ways.’ What else is missing in Europe? ‘A shared vison and action agenda on economic diplomacy, innovation and industrial development within the new global setting.’

Dit artikel verscheen in de internationale nieuwsbrief van TNO, mei 2011

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