The OECD launched its Innovation Strategy today, setting out what it think needs to be done to foster smart new ideas. The strategy is at the heart of a session at the OECD Forum on Thursday morning, “Unleashing Innovation”, where moderator Luca de Biase, the IT and Science Editor of Italy’s Il Sole 24 Ore newspaper, has noted that there’s rarely been a more important moment for innovation. That’s not just because we need to drive new growth in the wake of the crisis but also because we need to tackle problems like climate change and ageing populations.
So, what do the panel think needs to be done? Andrew Wyckoff, Director of the OECD’s Science, Technology and Industry department, kicks things off by explaining that the new OECD strategy provides a framework for governments to think about innovation. Crucially, that doesn’t just mean spending more on research and development (R&D), but rather adopting what he calls a “whole-of-government” approach. For instance, that can mean promoting new networks to bring people together and distribute ideas. It also means thinking about ways to get investment to innovators and lowering barriers to entrepreneurship. And it means developing better ways of measuring innovation.
The challenges facing companies in research have been underlined by Dawn Graham of pharmacy giant MSD. She’s pointed out that of every 10,000 molecules her companies starts to research, only one will ever make it to market, and at a cost typically of about $1.8 billion. She characterizes some of the issues in this area in terms of “push” and “pull”. Governments are good at the “push”, such as protection of intellectual property and investment in scientific infrastructure, but less good at “pulling” new ideas through the system and onto the market by lowering unnecessary barriers.
Her views have been echoed by Martin Schuurmans, Chairman of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology. He’s worried about the tendency in Europe to favour consensus thinking and would like to see a greater emphasis on leadership – “which should be about pull, not push”. Europe has too many barriers to innovation, he says – “we are too fond of precise control rather than balancing risk with control”.
So, lots of ideas and fresh thinking in this session on innovation, and for Andy Wyckoff of the OECD a great way to unveil the OECD’s new strategy: “We’re thrilled by the intense interest in this,” he’s told the session. “It’s a paradigm change.”