Digitalization, innovation ecosystems and expert judgements explored at an international conference

The Building Expertise for Innovation conference brought together researchers, decision-makers and industry.
Vladimir Šucha, Director-General of the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission

The Building Expertise for Innovation conference, hosted by Aalto University from 25 to 27 April, focused on how digitalization as a disruptive technological force transforms industries, services and society. National innovation policies, creation of platform ecosystems and the role of experts and expert judgements were among key topics.

Building regional innovation ecosystems anchored at universities

“Innovation performance is declining in Europe”, stated Markku Markkula, President of the European Committee of the Regions, in his speech. National governments are not necessarily the main drivers for innovation. Rather, regions and cities can be more important for building innovation ecosystems based on a culture of sharing knowledge and co-creation. There is a strong need for more interdisciplinary research – experts in technology and business need to work together with social scientists.

Markkula urged universities to focus more on societal challenges and to strengthen their role as natural platforms for entrepreneurial discovery. Universities have a crucial role in contributing to the development of regional innovation ecosystems which are founded on the culture of co-creation and the establishment networked of innovation hubs.  

To foster innovation ecosystems in Europe, Director-General of the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission Vladimir Šucha proposed in his keynote to move towards regional specific R&D targets; to open up regional structural funds to external actors; to develop fewer and simpler EU funding instruments with better aligned rules and increased flexibilities; to provide targeting funding for radical innovations; to encourage universities to become major players in the local innovation ecosystems; and to strengthen the role of social sciences and humanities.

Dr. Šucha stressed the importance of education for the prosperity of regions - especially secondary education that has a direct link to the increase in productivity. As an example, he presented  research showing that if Romania could improve its level of education to the level of Finland, the GDP of Romania could grow significantly. Dr. Šucha also stressed that Aalto University and the Espoo Innovation Garden in the Otaniemi-Keilalahti-Keilaniemi-Tapiola area is one of the world’s best places for innovation.

Building confidence in expert judgement

Presentations by members from the EU-funded COST Action IS1304 on expert judgement network showcased applications illustrating how evidence-based decision making can support policy makers and businesses on issues relating to technology, strategic choices, business models and innovation.

According to Professor Tim Bedford from University of Strahclyde governments are trying to find ways to make their decision making transparent and to rely on evidence in justifying their decisions. This is where structured expert judgement is needed.

Jennifer Cassingena Harper from the Malta Council of Science and Technology stated perhaps less optimistically that that there is presently a crisis of confidence in  experts and their role in policy making. The dilemma here is that crises typically call for rapid responses whereas reflection, consultation and ongoing discussion require more long-term time horizons.

The World Economic Forum has listed massive digital misinformation as a great threat. Professor Luca Iandoli, President of the International Council for Small Business, talked about the role of experts in this age of misinformation and gave advice on how to act on online media. But crowds can also be smart, tool, he explained, especially in crowdsourcing, open source and driving consumer choices. He was also optimistic and concluded that the Internet will improve over time.

Finland and the platform economy

The long-term goal for Finland is to emerge as a game-changing player in carefully selected industrial verticals to address the global potential of platform economy, explained Ilona Lundström (in the photo) from Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment of Finland. These verticals include connectivity, transportation, bio-, clean and circular economies, health and wellbeing, energy, maritime, education and travel. In order to succeed both nationally and at the EU level, it is necessary to make short and long-term investments in the digital platform economy, to develop enabling technologies and testbeds, to carry out pilots and to ensure the supply of general software skills. In order to boost development also flexible regulations and deregulations are needed. Professor Jarno Limnéll added that in order to make Finland the world’s safest place to live, work and do business we need to create a security culture, a culture of responsibility.

A 90-minute tutorial on platform business introduced the participants to the concept of platforms, key elements of value creation and the logics in leveraging platforms.  The audience also learned how digitalization is changing value creation and how innovation ecosystems can be built around platforms.

In the final session, Professor Ahti Salo noted that advances in digitalization have opened up exciting possibilities for evidence-based consultation processes to inform decisions. Such processes help expose misinformation and support collective learning through mutual critiquing. In order to be successful, these processes need to exhibit phases of careful problem structuring, elaboration of stakeholders’ value preferences, and creative development of decision alternatives.  

The conference was organised by the Strategic Research Council's research projects Platform Value Now and Digital Disruption in Industry led by Professors Ahti Salo and Martti Mäntylä from the Aalto University School of Science, in collaboration with the COST Action on IS1304 Expert Judgement Network.

Link to conference presentations will be added here soon

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