The ProACT Research Programme Promotes Wide Application of Innovation as the Key to Growth

the eFinland Weblog

Helsinki, 3 March, 2006 — The results of the joint Research Programme for Advanced Technology Policy (ProACT) undertaken by the Ministry of Trade and Industry and Tekes, the National Technology Agency, encourage wider application of innovation in society as the key to growth. In the programme, operating from 2001 until 2005, researchers analysed the interaction between society and the commercial and industrial sectors.

“The researchers believe that instead of individual technical breakthroughs or new Nokia–like businesses, successful industries and economic growth is going to most likely be built around, and combining, existing sectors. Innovation stems from interaction and learning processes involving several players. It does not mean separate technical advances and their consequent commercialisation. New fields, such as biotechnology, may take, even at best, decades to achieve scope equivalent to that of current industries,” says Petri Honkanen of the Ministry of Trade and Industry when describing the results of the ProACT programme.

Decision-makers should remember that industrial production and manufacturing have a great multiplicative effect on other sectors of the economy. Even if research and development activities are successful, they may bring more benefit elsewhere if the manufacturing takes place abroad.

Nor can support of R&D companies alone improve the development of public services with the aid of technology, as needs and practical cost–saving measures in health care, education, and local government are often at odds with the goals of these companies.

According to the research, the innovation process, including the emergence of innovations, is often understood as a mechanical tube. The researchers suggest that practices should be developed by several means, such as by further emphasising social, cultural, and organisational skills in innovation as well as business excellence – through further integrating the research that looks into the above–mentioned areas in the preparation, execution, and content of science and technology programmes, and also by focusing more on the user’s perspective, particularly in the development of consumer products and equipment for professional use.

Innovation is often born at the grassroots level and can gain significance in various ways, such as with the support of civic movements. Open–source projects, such as Linux, are a well–known example. The birth and dissemination of grassroots innovation must be supported by, among other measures, promoting open licensing systems and ensuring that patent legislation and other administrative acts do not diminish their chances for success.

The researchers conclude that the innovation policy as applied in the current administrate culture cannot fully respond to present and future social challenges. Meeting the social challenges is going to require co–operation and interaction across the boundaries of all administrative sectors – on its own, the contribution of the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Education is not going to suffice.

Social acceptability of those technologies involving greater risk, such as biological, genetic, nuclear, and new surveillance technology, has to be built on widespread participation and long–term political decision–making. Cost/benefit analysis, or scientific health and environmental risk analysis, that focuses merely on the foreseeable future is insufficient.

The researchers emphasise that citizens should be considered legally competent bodies in the decision–making process. A more egalitarian attitude should also improve the level of acceptance of decisions and the citizens’ contribution to competitiveness, say the researchers.

The results of the research programme were analysed by Petri Honkanen, Jyrki Ali–Yrkkö from ETLA (the Research Institute of the Finnish Economy), Sampsa Hyysalo from the University of Helsinki, and Johanna Uotinen from the University of Joensuu.

Together, the Ministry of Trade and Industry and Tekes, the Finnish funding agency for technology and innovation, started the ProACT research programme in 2001 with the aim of examining the interaction among technology, society, and the industrial and commercial sectors. The two bodies allocated a budget of 11 million euros for the five–year programme, with 44 research projects. The projects involved a total of 158 innovation researchers, and around 60 information users participated in the interaction fora. One of the fundamental results of the programme concerns the emergence of a new kind of interaction between research and government.

“ProACT’s solid research has enhanced our ability to comment on briefings and reports when requested, even to tight deadlines. We have also improved the quality of the information provided in response to decision–makers’ requirements.

Under the auspices of the programme were published 13 PhD dissertations and eight other theses, 63 scientific articles, and over 300 other publications. Furthermore, the programme has significantly influenced the training of innovation specialists,” says Pekka Pesonen from Tekes, listing the results of the programme.

The chairman of the programme’s executive committee was Timo Kekkonen, and the programme manager was Advansis Ltd.’s Tarmo Lemola.

The results of ProACT have been released in two publications:

Globalisaatio, innovaatio ja kansalaisuus - ProACTiivisia näkökulmia innovaatiopolitiikkaan
(Globalisation, innovation and citizenship : ProACTive Views on Innovation Policy)

Uutta tietoa ja osaamista innovaatiopolitiikan käyttöön - ProACT-tutkimusohjelman loppuraportti
(New information and skills to use innovation policy - the final report of the ProACT research programme)

Further information
Senior Inspector Petri Honkanen
Ministry of Trade and Industry
tel. + 358 (09) 1606 3848

Technology Specialist Pekka Pesonen
Tekes
tel. +358 10 60 55804

Programme Manager Tarmo Lemola
Advansis Ltd.
tel. +358 50 591 7056

More information
http://proact.ktm.fi/