Innovation does not come at the flick of a switch

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When it comes to enhancing social prosperity, there is no factor more important than innovation. Yet generating or promoting innovation at the political or regulatory level is by no means an easy task. On the one hand, very little is known about the processes behind successful innovation: how ideas are developed, how ideas can be turned into useful products and how these products can be successfully brought onto the market. And on the other hand, because innovation is often difficult to categorize and grasp, it can quickly fall prey to political arbitrariness and opportunism. Broadly speaking we can describe every political move that sets out to improve the country’s economic situation as an act of innovation policy. In recent years, practically all developed economies have declared innovation to be a priority in their growth policy, and this has given rise to an abundance of political programmes. Especially during economic boom periods politicians are likely to promise huge sums of money for research facilities and projects – the first few years of the 21st century are a case in point. In the meantime, however, many countries have run into such financial difficulty that they find themselves forced to put a stop to research projects and cut expenditure on education so that they can consolidate their national budgets. The problem is that research requires a certain degree of constancy, and this means that state and private-sector commitments should not be allowed to depend on economic cycles. Strengthening economic conditions is always an act of innovation policy. Against this backdrop we have to ask ourselves what can be done in order to maintain or improve innovative capacity in a global context. There are plenty of possibilities, but not every measure leads to success, and in some cases they can be counterproductive. Innovation cannot be equated with a specific solution technology, nor can it be ordered ready-made from a catalogue. With a per capita gross domestic product of around 80,000 US dollars, an unemployment rate of 3.5 percent and a government debt ratio of 35 percent, the Swiss economy is currently on very solid ground. Innovation and know-how form the foundation stone of this prosperity, since as a small country without its own natural resources, Switzerland has always had to rely on a wealth of ideas and on openness. In Switzerland, achievement and inventiveness have always been very highly valued, and this is a tradition that is still very much alive today, as we can see from various comparisons at the European and international levels. (…)

Źródło: The story behind Swiss innovation – Philipp C. Bauer, Project Manager, Foreign Economic Policy

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