Blog post

Open Innovation 2.0: interview with Bror Salmelin

Bror Salmelin is responsible for service innovation, focusing on open innovation, user-centricity, and experimentation and prototyping in real world settings for the European Commission.

We are talking about Bror Salmelin, a very qualified professional who gave the green light to Open Innovation 2.0 (OI2).

1. Bror, tell us...what do you deal with specifically every day?

As I am the advisor for innovation systems and the Doctorate General for Communications networks, Content and Technology, my work focuses on innovation impact, and therefore also on the innovation processes where socio-techno-economic interdependence is fully taken into account. The modern innovation perspective integrates ICT seamlessly into the societal behavior, leading to the Open Innovation 2.0 paradigm we speak about. This work also supports the 3 strategies by Commissioner Moedas, where open innovation is one of the key pillars.

2. "For tech companies, the key is to drive market development rather than just compete against existing players. Focusing on innovation in the private sector can provide better results and a leading position in the market”. What are the foundations that this statement rests upon?

As open innovation ecosystems include all the quadruple helix players (public sector, industry, academia, and the people/citizens), it can be considered as a safety net for innovation and experimentation to see what works and what can be scaled. The presence of users as co-creators also means that the approach is fostering the creation of new markets, services, and products. New market creation is a natural outcome of stretching technological, behavior, and societal boundaries. Experimentation and early prototyping in its turn are methods used to seek new avenues and approaches.

3. You are promoting the new Open Innovation 2.0 paradigm that involves industry, research, and the public sector. In your opinion, what are the implications of this “upgrade” process?

In the traditional perspective of open innovation, the three pillars you mention are building the triple helix of innovation. In Open Innovation 2.0, we want to highlight the crucial role of citizens/people as the fourth component of the quadruple helix process. We need that to create open innovation ecosystems where experimentation is the key method for innovation, where disciplinary and stakeholder boundaries are broken. This is essential because creativity and innovation flourish in rich environments. The ecosystem approach is also creating a safety net for innovation and innovators, enabling risk-taking and new approaches in a safe context.

This leads to a higher success rate of ideation and faster development dynamics as efforts are focused on scalable solutions (based on co-creation including end users).

4. Do you already have a case study you can share with us?

We have plenty of successful case studies documented in the Open Innovation 2.0 yearbooks published by the European Commission. As the yearbooks also have some recurrent examples, it is easy to follow the developments over longer time periods. To highlight the practicality, we (Martin Curley and I) will soon present a textbook addressing the thinking and practical implementation models for Open Innovation 2.0.

5. “Europe needs to focus on new models of innovation.” We imagine that you are referring to Horizon 2020, as well as the promotion of the Open Disruptive Innovation (ODI) Scheme. What advice can you give to companies that want to have a real impact by participating in these programs?

European funding is one of the dimensions, but it is important to see that OI2 is an entirely new approach, with open innovation ecosystems that ideally run many projects, targeting the ecosystems’ specific objectives. This means that we need to combine European, national, regional, and local funding in addition to public and private funding. Not every action needs to have all these. One of the challenges that ecosystems face is getting these activities to interact and build additional value for each other by combining ideas and building on each other’s experience.

The ODI scheme is a good and new opening for SMEs, but we need to go even further in our project and ecosystem thinking. We need to have new designs for projects and accept serendipity and uncertainties to achieve better impact. Innovation can only be catalyzed, not controlled.

6. European Network of LivingLabs (ENoLL) has been around for several years now. Tell us how this project came to life? What is the current situation?

The ENoLL was founded based on ideas stemming from MIT–Bill Mitchell, Father of the Living Lab Concept, mixing collaborative work and trends in societal development–and was rapidly developed into a European approach for Living Labs in real world settings–an ecosystem and user-driven approach.

I initiated the European movement as we, at that time, had the possibility to do collaborative projects, fostering ecosystems and new creativity. The Living Labs in Europe were then created.

In 2006 the Finnish EU presidency endorsed this policy action, and the first members of the movement were joining the network. In the successive phases, the movement was endorsed as a policy instrument (Portuguese, Slovenian presidencies) and the network grew rapidly to more than 400 confirmed living labs in the network. Of these, approximately 160 are extremely active and driving the movement ahead. Open Innovation 2.0 is the method systemically applied, and hence seamless collaboration of creating Living Lab nodes for OI2 is essential.

7. User-centricity, co-creation, and citizen involvement are all elements that contribute to the development of open innovation. What do you think the future role of technology will be and which trends are you expecting to see in the future?

Technology is one enabling component in the obvious socio-economic change. It creates in an interdependable manner and excellent opportunities for entirely new value propositions and reinforces the old ones. Having a quadruple helix involvement of all stakeholders is essential to capture the potential of technology development, as well as to making societal and industrial transformations healthy and prosperous.

Technology, interlinked with societal behavior, is the key to creation.

8. Which projects of noteworthy originality can you suggest to our “hungriest” readers?

The yearbook I referred to has interesting cases that cater to all tastes. Also, more dynamic cases can be followed on social media via our OISPG channels. OISPG represents the strategic view and is the abbreviation of our advisory group. Search "OISPG", and you’ll find a lot more interesting cases.

Good material including videos has been captured from our Open Innovation 2.0 conferences in Dublin, Espoo, Amsterdam, and most recently Cluj-Napoca.

These are some examples:

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