Last May, in the framework of the Partnerships for Regional Innovation (PRI) project, the S3 SUMMIT meeting on Smart Specialisation Strategies (S3) was held in Ponta Delgada (island of São Miguel, Azores), organised by the Azores Regional Directorate for Science and Technology (DRCT, GRA), the Portuguese National Innovation Agency (ANI) and the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission.
The aim of the meeting was to reflect on the coordination and directionality of regional, national and EU innovation policies and to implement the transitions towards a digital and sustainable economy and address the innovation divide, with sessions on new transformative innovation and open discovery processes (ODP). Sodena participated in the panel on experiences in regional missions.
The main conclusions on the new transformative approach to regional innovation strategies highlighted at the event were:
1. Right timing: it is urgent to tackle climate change leaving no one behind and securing the EU’s position in the economy of the future.
2. Complex times: we cannot avoid complexity, therefore it is mandatory to move out of the “control zone” into the “zone of influence”.
3. Innovation policy called to address a new generation of problems: climate, demographics, economic divides…. These cannot be tackled in isolation, we need a social innovation and green innovation perspective.
4. Changes to improve impact. Europe must transform or be transformed (not an option): if we continue to tackle problems with the same methodology, we will lose impact.
5. Transformative innovation. Incremental adjustments and improvements with a linear perspective are not enough: they have to be addressed from the industrial, social, skills policy, regulatory, market, demand… fields.
6. “Mission” as a sticky (and flexible) concept that facilitates commitment and coordination: it has to be inspiring, rewarding and challenging, so that everyone wants to join in and have a stronger impact.
7. Mission and opportunity: missions are an opportunity for discovery and coordination, but also for capacity building and policy transformation. The aim is to define acceptable pathways for change with a local mission focus.
8. Time and perseverance: Change requires both. The good news is that missions can lead to marginal changes, creating a virtuous circle in policy: start small with pilot projects, test models and grow.
9. Public competences. Urgent need to rediscover and strengthen capacities in the public sector to understand the challenges and address them.
10. Need for coordination: innovation agencies are key, but they cannot do it alone. They need the involvement of sectoral actors, orchestration skills and good political support.
We still have a long way to go, with much to learn and put into practice. We will continue on this path towards transformative innovation, moving out of our control zone of traditional policies and projects, into the zone of seeking greater influence and impact.