Having spent two days meandering at the 2011 Innovation Convention in Brussels, I unfortunately experienced many more “Ho?” than “Ha!” moments. At the risk of being too provocative and negative, here are the major thoughts that had me shaking my head horizontally rather than diligently nodding (that happened too by the way but for other reasons).
Unless you have a scientific PhD or strong connection with the academic world, it is unlikely you will be ‘trusted’ as a person capable of innovating as it was stressed at several occasions by senior moderators of various sessions during the 2011 Innovation Convention in Brussels (prize for innovative women, master classes on innovation or some fringe sessions with panelists boasting their PhD or Dr acronyms). It reminds me of the “Harvardish” symptom whereby unless you are published in HBR you are not part of the valuable economists’ community. If you are not a scientist you are not capable of innovation.
“Here cometh the authoritative CSO”
President Barroso appointed the Commission's first Chief Scientific Advisor, Professor Anne Glover saying: "I believe her outstanding background and caliber will bring invaluable expertise to the Commission. She has a strong track record in leading the Scottish Science Advisory Committee which made her the standout candidate for this post." The Chief Scientific Advisor will provide advice directly to the President, and will give regular updates on major scientific and technological developments. That’s fair until I read some of her functions such as “The Chief Scientific Advisor will provide authoritative guidance on interpretation of scientific evidence in presence of uncertainty, and will be involved in strategic emergency planning”.
“Make Science Investable”
If we do not pay attention, the next step will be the securitization of science. The value of science is not in the financial benefits it provides as an investment. This approach is ethically even morally wrong and will lead to inefficient use of public money. Saying that innovation is how to turn R&D into money sends the wrong message to the public authorities. It is another indication that the scientific community is doing all it can to retain public funds that should be devoted to grass roots innovation. Scientists should focus on the social impact of R&D’s outcome. Innovation is first driven by necessity and vision, not money.
Let me ask two questions to the ‘scientificrats’:
1) What is the role of ‘know-how’ and ‘know-that’ in innovation? Any expert in innovation will tell you that “the biggest obstacle to innovation is what people know to be true”. How many people of the scientific community are real innovators?
2) How come so many R&D projects are funded by the EU Commission for more than 15 years without any result being put on the market? What is the ROI of such investment?
Now, the main reason I am scared is that 80 billion Euros are going to be awarded by scientific-bureaucrats from the EU, and then spent by bureaucratic-scientists that will not bring the social value we are entitled to get from our public money.