Elise Ramstad: Experimentation and innovation on all levels of society


Finland's strategy is to seek new sources of growth, business opportunities and successful innovations. However, the recession is taxing the strength of society as an innovation-driven economy. Businesses have cut costs but, fortunately, have also begun to refocus on growth strategies where the innovation process plays a greater role.

In the Research and Innovation Council's latest policy guideline for 2015–2020, the interfaces between various sectors and actors, education, and competence sectors and technologies are viewed as sources of innovation and growth. However, the problem lies in the lack of suitable policy tools and collaboration platforms on the interfaces.

One of these tools is the innovation-generating model created to build bridges for the simultaneous review of technological and social innovations, including working life, service and policy innovations. The model serves as a scalable framework for studying innovation activities as a whole and as an operating system in which various sectors complement each another.

For historical reasons and due to institutional developments, information has fragmented and dispersed between a huge number of knowledge systems. On the other hand, a variety of skills is often required to solve new, challenging problems. This makes it vital to bring together different actors with mutually complementary problem-solving expertise in addition to the official arenas where such problems are solved.

Ideas that lead to innovations can originate in various sources and at different stages of the innovation process, due to policy, research, teaching, development or crowdsourcing (iterative innovation process). Today, the social media and crowdsourcing are efficient tools for engaging employees, customers and the general public much more actively and extensively in the innovation process, joint development and the testing of solutions. Collaboration can involve joint problem-solving and studying the impact of results from micro to macro level. At macro level, in order to success to solve complex and challenging development issues in a country, there is a need for joint understanding and same direction of the whole system. This conserns both political direction, partication of social partners, and support from workplaces and the RDI system.

The innovation generating model is based on criticism of the national innovation system and the traditional triple helix model (Ramstad, 2003; 2005; 2008). It describes the various actors involved in innovation activities and their interrelations and processes. The model has three levels: business and innovation policy, the labour market and the research and development system. This expanded model differs from the traditional triple helix model by including labour market organisations and the public authorities in the group of decision-makers. In addition to being responsible for regulation, these organisations can play various roles in promoting innovation. Secondly, the renewal challenge involves not only businesses but also public and third sector organisations. The third difference lies in the fact that, in addition to universities and research organisations, educational institutions and consulting and development companies are key players in the innovation process. They often have better preconditions for forging close contacts with workplaces in putting research results into practice. Fourthly, the model also covers internal cooperation within various organisations (e.g. between universities, consulting agencies and educational institutions) and the internal development of organisations, such as in the case of practices that support innovation. Cooperation is aimed at achieving higher-quality solutions rather than a consensus.

The systemic model is applied as a framework from micro to macro level, for instance in the evaluation of European innovation policies (Makó & Illéssy 2015), at programme level to promote the simultaneous improvement of productivity and quality of working life (Finnish Workplace Development Programme), the evaluation of learning networks, and as a framework at project level. The model can be applied more extensively in dialogue between various policy sectors, in programme activities and research, and in development projects aimed at boosting broad-based innovation activities.

Elise Ramstad
PhD, Senior Adviser, Tekes

Tiina Lifländer
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