How a Broader View of Innovation Presents Opportunities for Flanders
The ageing population, migration, the rise of new economic superpowers and the growing importance of the service sector pose major challenges for Flanders. Our economic fabric can meet these challenges – provided that our policy defines concepts like ‘economic growth’ and ‘innovation’ much more broadly. A vision statement by Flanders DC.
Ten years ago, innovation was synonymous with technology in an industrial context. But today, this narrow definition is no longer sufficient for meeting the challenges of a rapidly changing world. As non-technological innovation is becoming more and more important, it also deserves more resources. Innovation must become a broader concept – a matter for everyone.
Several factors impel us towards a broader conception of innovation. There is the importance of the service sector, which accounts for a large percentage of employment in Flanders, but is still largely under the radar of innovation policy. Furthermore, innovation is not just an issue for companies – the entire society can become more creative and enterprising.
Innovation is being interpreted more and more broadly in the traditional business world as well. Customers no longer wait for products to appear, but solutions. Speed and the right combination of knowledge are becoming increasingly important, making collaboration indispensable. Innovative solutions not only apply to the realm of products, but also to business models and market approaches.
This new context is compelling all organisations (whether they are for-profit or non-profit, public or private, young or old) and all sectors (including healthcare, education, welfare, government, culture, etc.) to display more creativity and entrepreneurship. And entrepreneurship is broader than the conventional meaning – it now includes the capabilities to translate ideas into concrete solutions. Entrepreneurial creativity is a task for everyone – for every employee in a company, but also in government, in education, in the non-profit sector, and so on. All sectors and all Flemish citizens must be involved in this, because a truly innovative Flanders presupposes that everybody innovates.
Recommendations for a Region in Which Everybody Innovates
The service sector is extremely important for Flanders, not in the least for the employment that it creates. However, the growth of this sector is smaller than its true potential. By largely focusing attention on technological production sectors, the government is overlooking opportunities here.
Innovation is more than technology. Non-technological elements are becoming increasingly important for our innovative capabilities. Sensitisation, support, education and the development of relevant knowledge networks can all contribute to open innovation of this type.
Sectors that are not strictly economic – such as culture – also contribute to our growth and to innovation. So they deserve attention too.
The Flemish business community is important, but it doesn’t exist in isolation. It’s connected with other elements, such as legislation or the output of the creative sector. Attention must be focused here as well.
About Flanders DC
Flanders District of Creativity is the Flemish organisation for business creativity. It was founded by the Flemish Government as a non-profit organization and enjoys broad support. Flemish businesses, academics, and public institutions use Flanders DC as a platform for cooperation and for building a more creative region. Creativity is the key ingredient in making companies more successful and in helping regional governments fuel a healthy economy with more jobs.