The rationale of the course
In all countries, innovation is more and more considered as a central resource and feature for further development. This has given rise to the emergence of policies centred on boosting the innovative capacities of firms, public sector organisations and societal groups. These policies have to take into account our enlarged understanding of innovation processes, which can be summed up in four considerations:
First, innovation is a complex, multi-faceted process. It is often drawing on science and research, but often also stems from other sources and interactions. In any case, innovation processes are seldom simply linear, and while a sound and suitable science system can be an important source of innovation, investing in public research is not enough to generate new innovations.
Second, the notion of open innovation emphasises a second central aspect, the involvement of multiple actors in the innovation process (both public and private, academic and industrial, producers and users), thus the importance of interfaces, interactions and collaborations and of institutional settings and incentives that nurture them. One of these is associated to knowledge 'thickness' and the need for proximity between actors in the innovation process. This has driven policies to foster on two main forms of proximity: geographical warranting the support of 'clusters', and sector-based, driving to a renewed interest in industry collective research centres and in mission oriented organisations.
Third, innovation is not always technological, the notion of 'new business models' captures the importance of the 'non technological dimensions' and to the inter-linkage of the product and service dimensions in any innovation.
Finally, innovation depends on human capital. Though self-evident, it has taken a long time before this has been properly recognised in policy-making, putting higher education and universities at the core of innovation policies, less for their ability to generate and transfer knowledge than for providing innovating actors with the adequately trained human resources.
Each of those four dimensions can be addressed individually, but we also have learned that performance is less an issue of each actor or each dimension but of their relevant combination and articulation in 'innovation systems'. There is thus a central issue for Governments to ensure an in-depth understanding of the 'systemic situation' and the overall regulatory and infrastructural framework conditions of their countries, to develop a vision of the overall direction and of the policy-mix that corresponds to it, before individual policies and instruments can be deployed productively.