When I was an academic, I seem to remember being invited fairly regularly to conferences on innovation. Since becoming a public servant, these invitations have become less frequent. So I was very pleased to be asked by Martin Curley of Intel to give a keynote speech on Smart London at the Open Innovation 2.0 conference in Dublin last week. My slide deck on Smart London is here: Dublin Open Innovation 2014 – Kleinman.
It was a well-organised and interesting conference, building on last year’s event which was addressed by the European Commission President and other commissioners.
I learned a new term – the “quadruple helix” – which adds citizens to the more familiar triple-helix of government, business and academia as partners in supporting innovation. This seems to me to be entirely consistent with the approach of the Mayor’s Smart London Plan in putting citizens at the core.
There were many interesting contributions throughout the day. I liked Bror Salmelin’s research showing that the major source of ideas for corporations was not generated through formal roles within the organisation but rather from customers and from informal links. Bror also referred to Richard Florida’s map showing the ‘spikiness’ – ie comparative rarity – of genuine global centres of innovation and new knowledge. As city managers of various kinds, we all have to deal with the fact that the world is both flat and spiky.
Richard Straub gave an intellectually provocative speech, starting from Schumpeter and Drucker, aimed at addressing the ‘innovation crisis’. For Richard, innovation is not just an economic debate, but is about the nature of our society. He distinguished between ‘sustaining innovation’ such as a new car model; ‘efficiency innovation’ – doing more with less; and more fundamental ’empowering’ innovation – a term he preferred to the more established ‘disruptive innovation’. I found Richard’s argument very interesting, but I am not sure if Schumpeter’s framework, based as it is on materialism and conflict (a Marxian although not a Marxist approach) with its core concept of ‘creative destruction’ could really be tamed in this way. Richard went on to argue that short-termism is a systemic and not temporary failing of current business models – which translates directly into low levels of identification and engagement by workers and executives with the organisations for which they work.
Dan Marom gave a very positive and energising presentation on the scope of crowdfunding to build trust, raise capital and generate new business models. Dan set out a hierarchy, starting from donation (‘philanthropy on steroids’) to reward, then debt then equity. He argued that these are new forms of intermediation emerging, and the UK is at the forefront of this.
Julie Sinnamon gave a barnstorming performance on behalf of Enterprising Ireland – rated #1 by Forbes apparently for doing business (although I wasn’t clear if this was in Europe or globally) and with a very high proportion of start-ups having an export orientation.
Innovation is essential for city economic growth, and yet it is a tricky issue for Mayors, city authorities and the public sector generally to address. As Mariana Mazzucat0 and others have argued, the public sector has in fact played a key role in fostering innovation, and yet at the same time, attempting to foster innovation through bureaucratic processes seems oxymoronic.