What Do You Mean by Innovation, Mr Laurer?


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After a State Agency for Research and Innovation (SARI) was established by the newly elected Cabinet in the summer of 2021, now, a Ministry of Innovation and Growth was established by the Cabinet elected in December. Until now SARI claimed that it was to manage EU funds amounting to €860 mln under the Research, Innovation and Digitisation for Smart Transformation Programme. The main goal of the abovementioned EU programme was supposed to tie up business with science to work together towards encouraging technology transfer. Such activities were until now split between the Ministry of Education and Science (under the Science and Education for Smart Growth Operational Programme (SESG) and the Ministry of Economy (Operational Programme Innovations and Competitiveness 2014 – 2020 (OPIC). Homologous with SARI Europe-wide are Innosuisse, the Swiss Innovation Agency, and Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency, which are responsible for the research-market collaborations, making technological transfer easier and introducing new ideas on the markets. And while these two institutions are based in countries outside the EU, a Joint Research Unit on Knowledge Transfer and Innovation was created at the University of Cordoba, Spain, in 2018. And all these trends owing to the concept of ‘innovation’ set out in Horizon Europe 2021, i.e. it is all about administrative units that will manage the allocation of European funds. They will, by applications for the Research, Innovation and Digitisation for Smart Transformation Programme, channel financing to business and research communities, will work with the centres of excellence and competence, established under the hitherto SESG, seeking to transform Bulgarian economy into a higher value-added economy, i.e. with growth prospects. By innovation, however, both in this country and Europe-wide, novelty in technologies and industries is mostly implied, i.e. innovations applicability and relation to the so-called hard sciences is highlighted. In the contemporary societies though, culture, arts and spirituality should coexist with technologies, patents, industries, business and economy. It is not for nothing that in Horizon Europe the following wordings and notions are laid down: green technologies and materials for cultural heritage; innovative and sustainable management and business models for museums and other cultural institutions; cultural and creative industries as a driver of innovation and competitiveness; preserving and enhancing cultural heritage with advanced digital technologies; traditional crafts for the future: a new approach; towards a competitive and sustainable European music ecosystem; the role of games in culture and in shaping European societies; shaping a greener and fairer way of life in creative and inclusive societies through architecture, design and arts. In other words, the beginnings are discernible of broadening the concept of innovation associated rather with the idea of ‘knowledge transfer’ and of establishing a relationship with the fields of arts and humanities

It is essential in this country too to clarify the concept of ‘innovation and knowledge transfer/exchange’, that is, the transmission to the society (in a broad sense) of research in all fields, to put the activities of innovation and knowledge transfer and creative practice in the fields of arts and humanities in pole position. Innovation actions and programmes entail great possibilities for exchange and mutual benefit for all those involved (research groups, university foundations, companies and institutions receiving the transfer), but above all for the public, the ultimate beneficiary of all activities that value the social impact of this research. Genuine R& D contains novelty and more often than not innovative methods and methodologies are used to generate its product. That is why dividing and/or opposing research to innovation causes bewilderment at least in the sphere of the European administrative clichés.

In order for transfer and innovation strategies in the arts and humanities to have the desired effects (which are undoubtedly potential, given the wealth and variety of research in these fields), it is necessary to aggregate initiatives and add strategies so that to achieve a multiplier effect and efficiency in the efforts invested.

Now a consensus is sought at a European level within the universities and especially, within the faculties of arts and humanities, as to what exactly should be understood by ‘transfer of knowledge and innovation’ in these fields. It is essential to define in a consensual manner, and in the face of a model of transfer and innovation that has sometimes been excessively marked by applied science, what these concepts mean in research in the arts and humanities.

It is necessary to have in the previously mentioned public institutions such as the newly established Ministry of Innovation and Growth interlocutors who can generate in the institutional and business spheres relevant strategies and critical masses when it comes to conveying humanistic and artistic innovation to society. In this sense, it is necessary to count on business conferences and chambers of commerce, as well as on the public bodies responsible for the management of university and higher education.

By virtue of all this, seeking both to aggregate multiplied efforts and to achieve common strategies for a better definition, it should be proposed. at the very beginning of the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union 2022, to hold a series of joint initiatives (such as roundtables and discussion forums, focused on the definition of a transfer model in these disciplines, the study of its evaluation and the presentation of innovative success stories of arts and humanities projects) with those involved in research, business, social and political activities, to establish contacts and synergies with companies and institutions interested in the social and economic performance of research in these areas, taking into account that R & D in the humanistic and artistic fields is based on culture, creativity, social commitment, critique. As a result, a series of consensus documents should be produced that could have social, media and political returns to be further consulted with and moderated by the Ministry of Education and Science.

The major strategic lines that today seem most promising for the transfer of knowledge in the arts and humanities are as follows: (a) Digital humanities (artificial intelligence, computational linguistics, digital society, digital arts, etc.); (b) Communication challenges (fake news, post-truth, freedom of expression, social networks, new forms of audiovisual communication); (c) Innovation and social intervention of arts and humanities (mediation, integration, migrations); (d) Heritage and tourism (knowledge, conservation, exploitation); (e) Arts and humanities and health (bioethics, humanistic training of doctors, therapeutic benefits of culture and arts); (f) Arts and humanities and business (coaching, philosophical consultancy, ethics for business, theory of argumentation and negotiation); (g) Science and art (possibilities of fruitful crossings between experimental sciences and artistic expression).

To recapitulate, I suggest to the newly established Ministry of Innovation and Growth of the Republic of Bulgaria to make sure that they include both in their name and activity the definition ’knowledge transfer’, work in close cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Science that nominally and responsibly deals with research and its novelty/innovation, as well as to initiate a debate about the concept of innovation in a broad sense of the notion covering arts and humanities too that could be held at a EU level as early as January 2022, at the meeting on Higher Education, Research and. Innovation. Besides technologies, industry and economy, Europe is, above all, spirit and tradition. The societies on the Continent owe their growth primarily to the tradition and spirituality.

What Do You Mean by Innovation, Mr Laurer?

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