SUII’s current themed programme of work is focussed on better understanding the features of vibrant innovation systems and how best they can be stimulated and progress assessed. In particular it aims to draw out the implications for policy and practice in Scotland. As we approached the end of the programme Scotland’s Futures Forum hosted a workshop in the Scottish Parliament to bring together the five individual projects in the programme to report back and identify some cross cutting themes.
The five projects ranged from the quite specific subject of technology to support stroke rehabilitation, through the implications of increasing community land ownership on innovative cultures and the role that more innovative workplace cultures can play, onto the development of a circular bio-economy and transformation in health and social care. Despite the diverse focus of the projects a number of themes began to emerge across all five.
The first was the importance of including as many stakeholders as possible to both develop ideas and help generate buy in to the inevitable change that innovation involves. The framing of issues is critical here, as the normalisation of innovative ideas (through sharing examples and experience) and making evidence genuinely accessible. Sometimes a focal point, be it community, sector or issue, can help. Acknowledgement that different perspectives exist and providing voice to all is also critical – the intersection of perspectives can often be where the most creative ideas are generated. Reducing fear of loss and providing safe spaces for development can also be a great enabler. In this regard the role of institutions, structures, governance and leadership is paramount.
Investment also emerged as a cross cutting theme. Assessing innovation in terms of its impact on societal wellbeing as a whole and on preventing problems from occurring down the line is vital if investment upfront is to be optimised. However, it should be recognised that innovation takes many forms, from the relatively short term changes that can help sustain activities, to the longer term investment required for transformation of a sector or area. Choosing the right discount rate and recognising that different interests might have different valuation methodologies is important in this regard. As is the recognition that innovation often involves many spill-overs which will have a wider impact beyond those making the investment. The public sector has a key role to play in understanding and supporting these positive externalities. The ownership and control of assets generated by innovations is also important in sustaining improvements, perhaps we should be thinking more about developing an innovation commons to ensure the greatest overall wellbeing.
The final and related theme to emerge was that of integration. Finding ways to think more systemically, embrace different perspectives, explore shared and different interests and understand both trade-offs and potential synergies. This highlights the importance of developing trusting, ongoing relationships in order to make the whole greater than the sum of the parts. This will help in grappling with the challenges of complexity and uncertainty and in dealing with the inevitable unintended consequences of innovation in one part of the system on other parts.
A more detailed cross-cutting paper will be published on SUII’s website in the new year along with short videos summarising the outputs of each project.