Regional Innovation is a Thing

We are accustomed to thinking about innovation as an idea that finds its way into the world either as a new business or a new technology.  When we think about new ideas we often think about it as an idea coming from an individual.  While this is often the case, it is increasingly not the only or even the most important way in which innovation takes place.

Enter Regional Innovation as an entity of innovation:  This is where a region embraces a specific identity and transforms itself through a variety of enablers and activities by diverse stakeholders to realise a shared vision of the future.  It may lead to new businesses, but it may just as well also be something the inhabitants of the region own together and develop together as a group.  This is one way in which societies can transform themselves by creating a shared view of what they want to become and then each member does their bit to make that happen.

An important way this can happen is through regional governance that creates an enabling environment which incentivises certain types of activities and discourages others.  In this way a regional initiative can bring about a new reality.  One model that can be used for this type of approach is the Graz model for integrative development, to make sure all aspects required for development are given appropriate resources and attention over time.

One example of this is the Forssa region in Finland.  This rural region is revitalising itself by establishing a circular economy in the region, and in doing so re-purposing some of the infrastructure it has available after major industries closed down a number of years ago.

Societal innovation, or “innovation by the masses” also potentially play an important role in regional innovation.  This type of approach is already very visible in the “Smart Cities” movement for instance, but can be extended beyond urban areas to rural environments and regions as a whole. In the “smart cities” example everyone has first bought into the concept of being a “smart city” and then they envision their future and work together from their various perspectives to realize it.

In this brave new world regulators, investors, innovators and communities work together to transform whole regions and create a better life for all through direct impact on society and not only through the indirect pathway of development through job creation by businesses.  Of course creating new businesses and new jobs have to continue, but innovation has matured – we can expand on that, we just need to embrace the new face of innovation – a societal reality, no longer primarily an individual or business endeavour.


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