EN Stratégie de l'innovation de l'OCDE : rencontre avec Pier Paolo Padoan, Secrétaire général adjoint de l'OCDE

Innovation strategy at OECD: with guest speaker Pier Carlo PADOAN, Deputy Secretary General, OECD

« Innovation henceforward will be at the centre of any country’s political and economic strategies, whether the country be ranked among the developed, emergent or developing nations”, stated Mr Pier Carlo PADOAN, Deputy Secretary General OECD. The Organization’s innovation strategy was presented formally to the Interministerial Council in June 2010. The breakfast ‘Rencontre’ organized on July 7, 2010 by the National Academy of Technologies of France had perfect timing. Prof. Alain POMPIDOU, President of NATF, was therefore more than pleased, in introducing M PADOAN, to recall the brilliant track-record of the Academy’s guest, who began his address with a statement:

“A new vision of innovation is needed, and consequently a new matching strategy”. Innovation per se, is not exclusively limited to so-called high technologies and indeed is an essential ingredient for any economic growth policy. “It is not sufficient for a country to appoint a Minister for Innovation: it should be in the Prime Minister’s remit too” for the reason that what is a stake is too crucial for a country’s future: in the decade before the recent financial crisis, more than 50% of the additional growth rates observed for certain countries can be explained by investments that these countries made in innovation and knowledge industries (notably in training and research). So, how do you develop a policy for innovation? Perhaps, reasonably, we might expect the current recession to boost innovation, if only to exit the crisis. But beyond this expectation, we can identify the major trends underlying the process. For example, the prime need to adapt to climate change will induce a new growth mode, and by the same token new modes of consumption and utilisation of resources. This so-called “green growth” will doubtless be based on innovation, but also to a connotation that transcends R&D. On one hand, innovations do not necessarily stem from an R&D phase. On the other, they have to take their place with respect to all sorts of societal components (services industries and activities, and public services…).

And what should be the priorities? Education and general improvement of education systems must figure among the prime choices here. We must ensure, stresses Pier Carlo PADOAN, that investment for innovation is made wisely and efficiently: producers and consumers alike must prove themselves intelligent. Another major issue: how can we strike a balance between competition and collaboration among enterprises? And this is an inherently complex question.

The fact is, that to encourage and enhance more open innovation policies, a certain number of conditions must be fulfilled: more interdisciplinarity, more professional mobility (geographically, of course but also intellectually), etc., likewise the development of new “knowledge-based markets”. Regarding public action in support of innovation policies, one of the serious difficulties is to properly identify the right moment for an efficient implementation.

Among the many factors that need to be taken into account, we should include the places where innovations are invented and evolve, i.e., mainly in ‘young’ companies. These companies must be helped in their development, and should receive encouragement to draw on global innovation networks. The very geographic patterns for innovation are changing, with a growing number of actors in the emergent, rapidly developing nations (India, China).

Whatever the situation in the future, an innovation policy will only meet success of we can develop in parallel a “capacity to absorb”: “Not only do we need human capital outlay to produce new products and services, but more important, we must have the capacity to correctly use these products and services, and this in turn requires us to adapt to the specifics of a given local context”, underlines Pier Carlo PADOAN.

Here again, there is an obvious need for adapted training schemes, and more generally, for improved relationships between private and public sectors. Lastly, all the foregoing points show that innovation involves and generates complex situations. There can no longer be innovation policies that are not fundamentally systemic. It goes without saying that an innovation policy can only be based on medium and long range, although this does not prevent policy-decision makers from addressing crucial questions, notably in the case of developed nations, one such question indeed being raised by today’s audience: how we orient policies towards labour intensive innovation, knowing that social upheavals could happen well before the predicted ecological issues of yr.2050? Here indeed is a very vast question, and unfortunately, Pier Carlo PADOAN can only just touch on some aspects. In particular, he portends, we should all engage in analyses as to the changes that should be brought to the Europe’s labour institutions. “One example”, feels the speaker, “is that we must curtail short term support for employment and rather invest in re-allocation of work”, and this self-evident statement calls for more training and better training, medium and long term, in order to reinforce market ready qualifications and their diversity.

Summary of the Rencontre by Dominique CHOUCHAN, journalist.