Managing Director of Insight Foresight Institute (IFI), Totti Könnölä participates in the round table on cities that move towards the circular economy, in the third edition of the Forum of the Cities of Madrid IFEMA (13-15 June 2018) that will once again offer a a cross-sectional look at the world of cities, their innovative management and the role played by all the actors that interact in urban environments.
As a response to the Commission public consultation on the report of Professor Mariana Mazzucato on ‘Mission-Oriented Research and Innovation in the European Union – A problem solving approach to fuel innovation-led growth‘ Insight Foresight Institute remits the following suggestions for wider consideration on the implementation of the mission-oriented innovation policy in Europe.
‘Criteria for how EU research and innovation missions should be selected.’
EU R&I missions should be bold, inspirational with wide societal relevance and cross-disciplinary, cross-sectoral and cross-actor efforts. It may be worth considering also the areas where EU has the greatest potential to contribute based on its capacities and competitive strengths.
The mission, while being a broad statement, also holds the risk of being too abstract to be targeted, measurable and time-bound. Furthermore, the notion of multiple bottom up solutions may counter to the expectation of realistic actions since if it is known to be realistic then why would multiple paths be needed. Ultimately the missions being bold they also entail the risk and uncertainty, for instance suggesting difficulties in setting the right time-bound criteria at the outset. The visions as such would better avoid also artificial limits for improvement. For instance, in case of reducing carbon emissions, the mission could well target going even beyond carbon neutral.
For mission-oriented policies to be truly systemic the missions would be better framed with systemic visions encompassing multiple-dimensions on the future techno-institutional and socio-economic systems. The experimentation of the alternative pathways would still be guided by such systemic visions and help identify complementarities and synergies of diverse efforts. In particular, without such systemic visions, there exists a risk of repeating the issues confronted in earlier efforts like in case of the European partnerships that tended to result to the broad networks of rather fragmented projects.
Defining the mission around a single criterion like a carbon neutral city or plastic free ocean holds the risk of losing some focus on other relevant criteria for development, consider for instance the hailed diesel engines as a low carbon solution that led to the rise of other serious air emissions. The very idea of sustainable development is to simultaneous explore win-win-win solutions across economic, social and ecological challenges.
‘Implementation of research and innovation missions’
The extensive inclusion of actors from a diverse group of European countries, including central and peripheral countries and regions can be an invaluable asset. However, national and regional stakeholders may too often have competing agendas that reduce the focus to serving neither and risk not addressing the needs of the largest constituency of society. Therefore, the intensity of the engagement of different stakeholders is better driven by their competencies and specific purpose of each mission. It is important that the best talents find their way to contribute the missions. Any calls for proposals of R&I projects may leave some high potential talents excluded. Here the good practices of ERC might be worth a consideration. Missions could also seek closer coordination with international organizations and other third countries.
An impartial appraisal of the progress and the impact as well as the flexible management are the key for effective missions. The implementation of EU R&I missions should be flexible, with pro-active management and building in-house capabilities and through a portfolio of instruments to foster bottom up solutions. The timelines and milestones set in the outset are better revised based on the improved understanding attained along the implementation phases of ambitious missions entailing uncertainties.
‘Citizens should be consulted on the choice of missions’
A broad consultation may benefit the exploration and definition of possible missions to better address societal needs and avoid bias over any single actor. However, this may become demanding from a methodological point of view (whom to consult, by which channels, using which methods) and turn out to be time-consuming, especially to thoroughly process the opinions and suggestions collected, and thus rather expensive.
Furthermore, framing a mission may require considerable technical and context specific understanding which reduces the value or suitability of public consultation or referendum for purpose of the selection or priority setting of missions. This would assume that the citizens have been educated sufficiently to understand the issues and the challenges related to the mission. Missions might be proposed to be a subject of public consultation even in situations where the citizens may not be related to due to lack of direct experience or the benefits of the mission being too far in the future.
Hence, the views of stakeholders and diverse set of citizens might be best integrated in early exploratory phases (e.g. via foresight) rather than in the later phases of the policy cycle when the mission has been largely defined and the consultation may merely seek for ‘approval’. One way for developing citizen insight on issues is the use of living labs and new methods of user-centred design for feedback. This process may facilitate a broad cross section of individuals from society.
‘Ideas for EU research and innovation missions’
- Smart Energy Systems. Europe can lead the transition towards distributed and smart energy systems for enhancing sustainable production, distribution and storage of energy.
- Cradle to Cradle Economy. The EU should become world leader in sustainability transition following the cradle to cradle design principles and learning from the experimentation across different sectors.
- Intelligent Reforestation. European forest management could gain momentum with new sustainable smart solutions for reforestation as means to fight desertification and mitigate the impacts of climate change.
- Beyond Jobs. Europe should lead a new way to understand that jobs are only a means. Social innovation is urgently needed to develop alternatives to jobs as the only way to gain access to wealth.
- Digital Democracy. Europe can lead exploiting the capabilities of technology to create an open and engaged society while making the most of “collective intelligence”. Democracy should be understood as a better way to solve certain complex social problems than markets or hierarchies.
El Mundo, the leading newspaper in Spain, interviews Totti Könnölä on digitalisation and circular economy.
Totti Könnölä defends the role of ‘big data’, industry 4.0 or the economy and collaborative platforms as spurs to achieve economic and environmental sustainability.
A total of 16 tons. That is the amount of materials that each European consumes during a year. Of them, six tons end up turned into waste. And, of these, around 50% end up forgotten in a landfill with the consequent environmental impact and for the health of all.
This is an untenable situation for anyone with some common sense and who has driven political efforts of various kinds (recycling, restrictions on industrial waste, …), BUT often without addressing the root of the matter: the real nature of products and how they are generated, consumed and reused. We better talk about designing products thinking of their future beyond the life-cycle. To change our mindset from a model with beginning and end, to another where there are no extremes and everything flows forever.
“What we have now is a totally linear value chain, in contrast to what is being proposed by the circular economy: a systemic change that will allow us to reuse the products to create new ones and thus close the entire life cycle of the goods.“, Says Totti Könnölä, executive director of the Insight Foresight Institute. This man, whose life is halfway between Finland and Spain, is a recognized expert in innovation and sustainability.
The reason that the circular economy has not been firmly committed is that “typical chains have many actors and each of them seeks to optimize its business, but only does so with its share”. That inevitably results in a problem that is not technical (the recycling of materials takes years), but a business model. «The question is mainly organizational. Even in many cases, the waste is separated and then it ends up coming together again because it can not be used,” says Könnölä in an interview with INNOVADORES held at the Ramón Areces Foundation.
Faced with this panorama, marked by the dissonance between theory and practice, we asked Könnölä about the disruptor that makes this philosophy take off once and for all, not from production, but from survival as a species. «Digitization is key. Thanks to trends such as big data, we can take full traceability of the materials, know what their history is and how we can make better use of them, “he explains.
“concepts such as the collaborative platforms [e.g. Airbnb] allow better use of existing resources, avoiding the production of more goods than necessary. In addition, digitalization also facilitates that many products that were previously bought and sold, are now marketed as a service. By controlling the whole life cycle of the product, companies can design for future recycling or perform a more efficient preventive maintenance that reduces the need for spare parts.
Betting on the circular economy is the simplest solution to avoid reputational potholes derived from the purchase of materials (such as metals or minerals used in electronics) to countries in conflict, while reducing installed volatility in the commodity markets.
The platforms, adds this guru of the second opportunities, are especially interesting because, “as has happened with the music industry, intermediaries are removed from the chain, causing the different agents to abandon their traditional roles to connect or even be themselves both the producers and consumers of the same good ».
Some meeting points between two vertices can also be extended to the less glamorous area of waste. “In Atlanta (USA) they have created a platform to coordinate the collection of garbage and make matching with companies that can take advantage of it. That is to make an innovative use of waste. turning the problem of garbage into tremendous opportunities ». If we add to this equation the 4.0 industry and its capacity to personalize products and adjust the use of materials to the maximum, we have the perfect bases to make the circular economy a reality.
The interview available in English in El Mundo.
Find out also about our training on platforms.
Invited speech of Dr. Totti Könnölä, CEO inf Insight Foresight Institute in the scientific conference ‘Bioengineering for Healthy Ageing. Adding Life to Years’ November 9th 2017, CosmoCaixa Barcelona.
Future personal health ecosystems encompass various areas of application such as chronic disease management, life-style management, independent living and emergency services. Such future systems assist in the provision of continuous, quality controlled and personalised health services to empowered individuals regardless of location and provide a horizontal development area across variety of patients, clinical specialties, technology fields and health services. Hence, the development of such ecosystems requires transformative governance that enable coordination and federation of diverse stakeholders.
Juan Mulet Melia, a member of the Innovation Council of IFI, and Totti Könnölä, CEO of the Insight Foresight Institute (IFI), write in Cinco Días, one of the leading economic journals in Spain, to promote smart specialization in the regions.
The aim of any policy to promote innovation is to make more innovative companies, and those that already are, to address innovations that generate greater added value. An innovative company sees innovation as one of its operations in pure business logic. However, companies that are not innovative consider that it does not compensate them to assume the inherent risk of any innovation. For this reason, innovation policies will only be effective when they are able to reduce the technological, commercial, organizational or financial risk acceptable.
Two are the ways in which policies to promote innovation are usually pursued. One, of general application, is financial aid, which must be sufficient to make the risk acceptable to a company that feels averse to innovation. The safest way to waste public money is to design financial policies for innovation with scarce resources.
The second path is to facilitate access to the technologies needed to develop innovations. If there are already sources of adequate technology, this path will be less expensive, but only reduce the technological risk, leaving intact commercial, organizational and financial…
Image: Gitty Images / Cinco Dias