Innovation policy is normally about innovation in industry. Lately the policy field has expanded to include the public and civil sectors. But what about the innovation policy makers themselves? Do they innovate.
In this Powerpoint presentation, which was originally prepared for the science polcy Gordon Conference in 2010, I look at how policy learning must be seen as part of a larger arena consisting of policy makers, researchers, stakeholders and politicians.
Much of this thinking is based on research done in STEP/NIFU STEP and the EU 5th Framework Programme Project PUBLIN, as well as on my own experience as a civil servant and research and innovation policy maker.
A service that lets you send ultrashort messages to a group of contacts? Come on!!!
There is enough information noise in my life already: email, phones, RSS feed and web sites to follow, meetings, text messages. The list goes on and on.
My wife convinced me, however, and I have now opened my own Twitter account.
Sure, there are enough of Facebook like messages: “I am taking my dog for a walk!”, “It is raining” etc. — the kind of bonding and grooming oriented chatter we humans are so good at.
But there are also highly useful messages announcing meetings, online articles, news items etc, and if you follow people having the same interests as yourself, you will get the latest news awfully fast.
10 years ago my wife Susanne and I decided to get a new hobby: search engine surveillance.
It was all due to our total fascination with the World Wide Web and a strong belief that the combination of search and the Internet would transform our society completely.
We were right. The world is a different place now compared to what it was 10 years ago and that change is partly caused by giants like Google, making huge amounts of information available to all of us within seconds.
When our generation leave this earth, few people will be able to imagine a world where you would have to go to the local library to order a copy of a newspaper article or a book.
We called our site Pandia, after the Greek goddess of light and enlightenment (to tell the truth: all the good domain names were taken), and put up a list of all the essential search catalogs and search engines available at the time.
One year after we started blogging about search, and now we are invited to conferences around the world as search engine industry experts.
One friend asked us why we didn’t turn this hobby into a business. Combined with some search engine marketing services, it would have been sustainable. That’s probably right.
However, it is the social aspect of search that fascinates us, as well as the innovation culture found in some of these companies, not the businessman’s dream per se. Hence Pandia remains a part time hobby.
It has not led to much discussion in Norway or in Europe for that matter, but it should, as it presents a new and broader view of what can make a country innovative.
Those of you who know me and my blog, know that I have been concerned about the strong R&D bias of innovation policy development and in innovation indicators.
It is not that research and development is not important for industrial innovation. It probably is even more important than we previously thought. The point is that it is only one of many ways of learning. There is design, marketing, branding and organizational change, for instance.
Moreover, if you look at research in isolation, R&D does not only deliver ideas, inventions, products, processes and services. It also makes the companies and the research institutions better at finding, understanding and making use of knowledge and technology developed elsewhere.
The OECD report covers all these factors, and argues that “the Norwegian paradox” — i.e. the fact that Norway seems to invest little in R&D, but reports very high productivity and wealth creation — is not a paradox at all. Norwegian industry is mostly very knowledge intensive, even if the companies do not invest as much in R&D as a percentage of turnover as, let’s say, Nokia or Volvo.
I could not agree more.
I have made a presentation in Norwegian giving a summary of the report. I is included below.
This week Microsoft decided to focus all its enterprise search development in Norway. At the core of this new effort is Fast Search and Transfer, a Norwegian company Microsoft bought earlier this year.
This development brings up the question on what it means to have a “European” search engine industry. There are no big Norwegian owned search engine companies left, but at the same time both Microsoft, Yahoo! and Google have established research units in Norway.
Why? Because Norway has one of the best search engine development clusters in the world. They want the brainpower.
My wife Susanne and I had the pleasure of taking part in a very interesting seminar arranged by IPTS in Seville last week. The European Commission is looking for expert advice on how to secure and develop European activities in this area.
Several of the participants felt that Google had become to powerful and that the European search engine industry was all but disappearing. Therefore, they argued, the EU should invest in a European alternative to Google.
We also made a short presentation of the history of our search engine oriented site Pandia. It is, indeed, a strange story. Pandia is definitely the only site of this kind out there that was indirectly caused by an act of parliament!
Well, you can read about it in this short slideshow:
If you are into jazz, you might want to take a look at a collection of online resources gathered by my friend Johan Hauknes and his colleagues in the Behind the Music - Profiting from Sound project, a Nordic study from 2003 of the music industry.
It is presented as a gateway to information with links to institutions and resources on the Nordic and global music industry and to a range of online jazz resources.
There is a general agreement that the windows-based user interface that was invented by Xerox, adapted by Apple and then stolen by Microsoft was a huge improvement vis-a-vis the cursor and text-based user interfaces of earlier computers.
Nowadays most people take the use of the mouse and idea of gathering files in folders as obvious. It was not.
During my days as a young civil servant in the Norwegian Ministry of Education, Research and Church Affairs (don’t ask!) in the early 1990’s I became one of the local “PC user helpers” and was given the task of explaining the concept of files and folders to people who had no idea of how a computer worked.
I remember that i found a card box and put paper-folders and paper sheet into those folder to illustrate the concepts of the hard drive (the box), the folder (the folder) and the paper sheet (the file).
If I didn’t many of them would just hit the save button, having no idea about where the file went. They were not stupid, but no one had explained to them the basic concepts of computing.
Very few user interfaces are obvious. The uses of a water basin tap, a radio volume button, or a screw driver are all learned behavior.
Anyone who have been to one of the modern “designer hotels” know this, as they suddenly find themselves unable to turn off the lights (where is that light switch?) or get running water in the shower (what button to push or turn, and which way?)
Here is a very funny video from the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation that describes this dilemma in a wonderful way. It is taken from the show “Øystein og jeg” from 2001. Øystein Backe plays the helper from the help desk and Rune Gokstad is a desperate monk trying to understand how to use — a book! There are English subtitles.
(By the way, the book was not introduced in the Middle Ages, but in late antiquity.)