Research supporting decision-making
Research data is needed for the support of decision making. Innovation policy lacks an established socio-political research tradition, whereas older policy areas can utilise research carried out in fields such as labour force, employment, education, economic and regional policy studies. An explicit and generally acknowledged theory of innovation activities and/or policy does not exist. With regard to science studies and science policy research, the research tradition in the field is fairly shallow and short. Consequently, fostering close dialogue between innovation policy decision-makers and the research field is of primary importance.
Challenges of the broad-based innovation policy
Broad-based innovation policy, as formulated in the Innovation Strategy and the Government's Innovation Policy Report (2008), poses significant challenges for the knowledge base in decision-making processes. Rapid changes in the environment where policy decisions are implemented also cause challenges for knowledge needs. As Finland occupies a pioneering position among other countries, we can rarely find feasible models of policy practices implemented elsewhere and can exploit foreign research data to a relatively limited degree.
Globalisation has changed the nature of competitive advantage and innovation activities in business. Structural changes in the world economy, new emerging markets and new kind of consumption, democratisation of innovation, and decentralisation of knowledge work as well as research and development have changed the ways in which we implement innovation policy. The global economy poses increasingly complex challenges.
New aspects of innovation, such as open or user-oriented innovation activities, are already being applied horizontally, even though their methods of application vary according to the field and objectives of innovation. The innovation activities taking place are numerous and diverse, and subject to changes that are sometimes conflicting in their objectives. In order to understand these developments and plan policy measures, we need research data and continuous dialogue between research communities and decision-makers.
Technological and non-technological content complement each other
Broad-based innovation relies on the assumption that competitive advantage and innovation in business are based not only on technology, but the technological and non-technological content complement each other. Originally, innovation was seen as a purely technological development. However, the driving force and rationale behind non-technological innovation, such as new methods, customer contacts or services, originate in different sources than those of technological innovation.
Furthermore, different innovation logic is applied in the private and public sector. In the future, innovation activities will be formed so that they can utilise both technological and non-technological innovation sources and apply modern and new forms of innovation. Models of purely technology-based innovation processes do not necessarily succeed any longer.
We have relatively little research data to answer questions, such as: How will the broad-based approach change, adapt and diversify innovation processes in the global operating environment? How will community-based activities influence the reform of innovation processes? What kind of different or comparable features do public and private sector innovation processes have?
Finland is among the first countries to promote broad-based innovation activities with a systematic innovation policy. Research data is needed already in drawing up the innovation strategy and in clarifying the basic terms and practices, which form the basis for the innovation strategy and the MEE's measures.
What kind of new innovation models are being created and how do they differ from the established forms? How is broad-based innovation defined and measured? How will the various practices be formed as innovation diversifies? How can the renewing forms of innovation be supported? Should all forms of innovation be supported – where are the limits of public intervention? How can the effects of the increasingly complex range of measures be related to each other? Will they have conflicting effects that override each other?
The above-mentioned questions are examples of knowledge requirements and themes calling for close dialogue between innovation research communities, scientists, decision-makers and innovation practitioners.
Systematic development of interaction since the 1990s
Since the 1990s, the Ministry of Trade and Industry (until 31st Dec. 2007) in partnership with Tekes has systematically developed the interaction between innovation decision-making and research. In 1997, they published a Technology Research Programme (TTO), which resulted in more than 50 completed research projects. The TTO was followed by the ProAct Research Programme, which was completed at the international “Innovation Pressure” -Conference in 2006. Since ProAct, Tekes has continued to run innovation research activities based on programmes with targeted calls for proposals. At the Ministry of Employment and the Economy (since 2008), innovation research falls within the Enterprise and Innovation Department's remit.