Monday 15 November 2010

Europe and Innovation!

Yes, I know; Europe and innovation, not words normally seen in same sentence!

The European Commission have announced a so called "Strategy of the Innovation Union". Perhaps you missed that! They seem to have discovered it's quite a good idea; though this is from an organisation that could be seen as the polar opposite of innovation!

It says,

We must champion social innovation. We must develop a better understanding of public sector innovation, identify and give visibility to successful initiatives, and benchmark progress.”

For Euro nerds you can read the whole document here

However this new direction does seem to offer something for Europe's third sector.

The Innovation Union will focus Europe's efforts on challenges like climate change, energy and food security, health and an ageing population.

So past the gobbledygook what does this mean?

In the past, the European Commission has struggled to accept the concept of innovation beyond scientific research and development.

Through recognising social innovation, the European Union will be championing innovation, both in and lead by, civil society. This is a first for an organisation that has failed to recognise the power and strength of Europe's great civil society organisations.

But frankly, what we most want is funding!

And I think this is good news? Funding for social innovation will be designated within the existing structural funds which have so far been managed by local authorities and not very accessible to third sector bodies.

The Commission will launch a European Social Innovation pilot which will provide expertise and a networked 'virtual hub' for social entrepreneurs and the public and third sectors.

It will promote social innovation through the European Social Fund and Social innovation should become a mainstream focus in the next generation of European Social Fund programmes.

Starting in 2011, the Commission will support a substantial research programme on public sector and social innovation, looking at issues such as measurement and evaluation, financing and other barriers to scaling up and development.

Euclid played a not insignificant part in this development. As part of the lobbying by Euclid on European funding we argued strongly for a refocus on innovation and the third sector. So well done to the Euclid team for playing their part in this new funding stream.

And even more important Euclid has secured its first tender from the European Commission, as a member of a coalition of academics, universities and social innovators.

The project, unromantically named "The Innovation Society, Sustainability, and ICT (INSITE)", will look at the relationships between innovation, sustainability and ICT.

There are 11 partners in this coalition, including The Hub Brussels and researchers from the Santa Fe Institute in the US, who are leaders in the field of complexity theory.

Euclid will examine how we manage our network to engage in small-scale social experiments, how to monitor their effects and how to scale-up the most socially valuable.

The project itself is at the forefront of social innovation research in Europe. It will reinforce Euclid's reputation as the European network of "civil society innovators.". That can only be good.

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