Chair: Bror Salmelin, Adviser for Innovation Systems, DG CONNECT, European Commission

Moderator: Gary Shapiro, President & CEO, Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), USA


Thomas Andersson – Senior Advisor Research, Innovation and Higher-Education, Sultanate of Oman

Martin Duval – CEO & Founder, Bluenove Group, France

Effat El Shooky – Technical Director, Women Business Development Center (WBDC) & Founder of Community-Based Knowledge Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship Initiative (CKI&SE), Egypt.

Denis Gardin – Senior Vice-President, New Technology Ventures & Managing Director, Airbus Group Corporate Technical Office; President of TESTIA, Airbus Group, France

Pierre Langer: CEO Powidian, France

Michael Stankosky – Research Professor, George Washington University, USA

Yoshio Tanaka – Professor Tokyo University of Science, Japan

Julie Wagner – Non-Resident Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution, Metropolitan Policy Program, Switzerland

As an introduction Bror Salmelin wanted to make it clear that innovation could not be controlled but needed to be orchestrated. We can’t predict the future as we are in a vucational society, VUCA standing for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous. This means we don’t have a direct control over it but we can catalyse it.

There is a real paradigm change in the way we innovate, we have to be more opportunistic to make things happen and have the courage to experiment. Speed and success rate are also important factors. Being able to identify whether a new idea is going to be successful or not is of critical importance! “Killing” a failing idea as quickly as possible actually helps prevent or minimize waste/loss of money and energy. The change in pattern is to think beyond the ‘outside of the box’ framework, and think in terms like ‘there is no box’ instead. Mr. Salmelin illustrated his sayings on his vision of innovation using the example of the stellar constellation – our vision of another star depends on our location, and on the location of the star itself in the sky. So our point of view about innovation has to be put into perspective, and this mind-set can be facilitated if we put the user at the centre of our thinking process. By focusing on the users we enable powerful end results – a “sense of ownership”, and strong values and opportunities related to innovation.

According to Mr. Salmelin, it is undeniable that diverse research groups provide a higher number of possibilities to innovate than a cluster. Therefore, “diversity” is critical for successful innovation.

To conclude his introduction to the subject, Mr. Salmelin underlined the new jobs of tomorrow: the bridgers facilitating the transfer of knowledge, and the curators taking care of the culture of a society. The question is: “Which one of these do we see ourselves being part of?”

Regarding the discourse of Mr. Thomas Andersson, he introduced his speech with the fact that we are living in a new era where we are able to access, diffuse and use information at a scale never experienced before, and the main reason for such a huge evolution is technology and innovation. He then clearly highlighted four domains that are important for catalyzing innovation:

  1. Education as one of the major growth areas which has increased at lot thanks to the information widely available. On the other hand, the quality of self-education is still way below what it could be due to the misuse of the platforms and tools available.
  2. Content. The use of the digital world by most users is unfortunately mainly for entertainment rather than for educational or informational purposes. Hence there is high volume search and use of entertainment content than of information, knowledge, educational materials etc.
  3. The smart city concept. According to Mr. Andersson we need to connect clusters, and receive responses and data that we will then be able to use in our innovation processes. However, this does need more engagement, and platforms need to be created by the cities themselves.
  4. Finally the fourth point was ICT itself. There are a lot of unresolved issues; trillions of devices are always connected; and the question of security, privacy and other personal data protection regulations are going to be harder to balance. Indeed, personal data is really valuable for today’s society and for innovation processes. The issue Mr Andersson underlined is that there is no fixed price for each personal data. They are free and the users usually don’t know that they are used and why they are used for. So in his opinion, we should find a way to turn the logic around and create a sort of exchange between both sides.

The next speaker was Mr. Martin Duval who talked about the importance of culture in the process of creating innovation. Indeed, innovation is about involving each stakeholder of the enterprise ecosystem inside and outside the innovation process. After illustrating this point by a real life example, Mr. Duval then asked an interesting question: “How is it possible to create this culture of innovation?” In order to obtain a relevant or efficient innovation we need to improve the collaboration. So the online tools are important, but so is the offline collaboration. These two factors are of vital essence because innovation is present in every level of the firm. That includes fighting problems in the area of sales, production, idea contest difficulties or bad feedback from the test panel. Finally, innovation is directly linked to social responsibility.

After this presentation, Mr. Gary Shapiro gave the floor to Ms. Effat El Shooky who talked about her work with communities in Egypt. According to her, innovation has to include the lower part of the society’s pyramid too. This process allows figuring out problems in communities all over the world, and helps them identify the root challenge they are facing. Ultimately this should lead to community’s ability to answer the right question, and collect and use existing successful best practices.

To illustrate a successful innovative process from the Airbus Group, Mr. Denis Gardin introduced his associate Mr. Pierre Langer to talk about the Powidian project.

What is Powidian? Powidian is a start-up, offspring of Airbus established as a response to the need for recyclable energy. The idea behind Powidian was to produce and use recyclable energy everywhere and at any time, with a short-term and long-term storage. Any type of reliable energy generators such as solar panels, windmills, and even hydrogen, are used, and according to Pierre Langer, this it is the solution to replace the energy from oil. The solution can be widely applied in different domain, so Powidian is open to offering it to other interested businesses outside telecommunication.

Michael Stankosky talked about the mosaic of innovation i.e. its complexity and numerous various stakeholders involved in the R&D and innovation process. In broad terms he talked about the entire innovation ecosystem – its elements, both tangible (material) and intangible (tacit knowledge); processes, such as codification and convergence of knowledge, collaboration, creative destruction etc.; analytical frameworks such as systems thinking an conceptual analogies, and last but not least, “stochastic elements” such as luck, serendipity and ‘accidents’. In his words, the key concept here is “consilience” which means unity of knowledge.

Then Yoshio Tanaka talked about a project that started at the end of 1980-ies – the IMS project, and still bears huge relevance for our understanding of and work in the domain of innovation. The idea of innovation as dual engines with things and systems was the main focus of his speech.

And last but not least, Ms. Julie Wagner talked about the geographical aspect of innovation. In the past few decades the innovation of communication and telecommunication has only been located in the prestigious Silicon Valley. But in the meanwhile other centers have emerged throughout the world, and they are now within communities which enable them to have direct interactions and views on what is happening in their communities.

An important point that Ms. Wagner introduced is the rationale behind the construction of this type of centers. According to her, the most plausible explanation of this phenomenon is the notion of proximity. Indeed, the proximity facilitates creation and innovation through connections within communities. A good example of this trend is the city of Boston. This city became the new pole of innovation because it succeeded in grouping together the MIT, Google, start-ups, firms with extended R&D and spin off.

According to Ms. Wagner’s presentation, the innovation ecosystem includes three crucial assets/factors:

  1. Economic assets represented by the investments;
  2. Physical assets regarding the geographical installation of firms to provide an ultimate working environment, and
  3. Networking assets regarding how all actors are connected.

Mr. Shapiro concluded this session asking the panelists to choose two keywords that best summarized the topic of innovation for them. Here are a few interesting keywords:

  • Enable and Inspire – Thomas Andersson
  • Courage and Creation – Bror Salmelin
  • Consilience and Wine – Michael Stankosky
  • Proximity and Convergence – Julie Wagner