I’m in Berlin. 2009 to 2010 is the year of Germany as the Chair of the rotating EUREKA Presidency and the end of this year is being celebrated with a Ministerial Conference and award ceremony.
In case you don’t know, EUREKA is a network that helps to stimulate and foster new projects. Though they have many member nations (mostly European but also now including South Korea as of last year), the projects are chosen on merit - bottom up - rather than from a government level down.
The award ceremony last night highlighted the work of three projects and put a little glitz and glamour into the world of research and development. German TV business presenter Carola Ferstl provided some of the glitz and glamour, while the great and the good of the world of European innovation policy looked on.
First prize for this first ever Innovation Award was won by the catchily named ONOM@Topic+. Their project, lead by Gemalto of France, is leading the way in developing secure digital smartcards. These cards have many potential uses including payment and access to public transport systems, driving licences, medical records and biometric data and access to a wide range of public services.
It almost goes without saying that they have been addressing political issues and societal concerns whilst also working hard on the technological aspects. The project itself displays many of the benefits to firms in fast moving areas of the use of partnerships.
Jean-Pierre Tual, representing Gemalto, explained that the potential life-cycle of new products in their industry can be as low as two or three years. In such an environment, there is pressure to develop and roll out to market their products simultaneously.
As might be imagined, this puts real pressure on all involved to move and move quickly if their lead into the market is to be exploited and the investment in the project recouped.
Gemalto have actually used this product to move even further forwards it seems. Rather than simply bringing in a range of partners to assist in the R&D, they brought in their competitors as well. This has enabled them to develop a product that also now has industry and government support as being the industry standard.
They have been developing both product and business model on the fly. It is a very impressive achievement and they were clearly worthy winners.
The real question though, is how can more innovators and entrepreneurs be brought into the policy debate to help move issues forward in ways that benefit all? It goes without saying that they have much to do under intense time pressure.
At many of the policy related events in Brussels, it is clear that there are almost exclusively policy, government and lobbying professionals attending and few - if any - people that really innovate. Bringing these experts into the policy making arena in a positive manner seems to be the real challenge.