Digital Agenda for Europe
A Europe 2020 Initiative

Demand-driven innovation accelerates tech transfer: Myth or Reality?

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Opposite views seems to emerge when it comes to accelerate tech transfer in Europe. User-led innovation, bottom-up innovation, living labs etc. are just a part of a long list of ways to try to better align R&D carried by industry with user's needs (potential consumers). They are clear efforts that try to reduce the gap of tech transfer and refine the product or service they foresee to launch into the market. If you want a EU project to be funded, you have to demonstrate how user's participate in the R&D process. The more and more pilots have to be well designed all along a project with iteration methods and not only be carried in the last phase of a project otherwise your chances to get EU funding decrease…

But it is a little bit more complex, isn't it? User's need or preferences are not static and demand of innovation can be shaped. As Henry Ford famously said, "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses." This is why we keep seeing strong "technology push" research. Cases like Weizman Institute in Israel http://www.weizmann.ac.il/pages/technology-transfer-0 show how "curiosity driven research" (opposed to goal driven research) can have impressive tech transfer results (see my previous comment:https://ec.europa.eu/digital-agenda/en/comment/679#comment-679) Curiosity driven research relies on freedom and serendipity. Researchers investigate questions because of their instincts and curiosity say that there is something relevant in there. And history shows that many inventions did not happen to solve a need or problem that society had identified.

So, how much evidence do we have that each of those models increase the later adoption of the product in the market? Which is most effective way to accelerate tech transfer and reduce our EU "death valley" between research and market? And how can we best combine demand-driven and curiosity-driven research?

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I wonder which is the role of funding in Demand-driven and/or Curiosity-driven research to accelerate tech transfer? Could this type of research be crowdfunded so as to speed the transfer process?

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I beleive that scientific reserach must be curisosity driven. What use is a map when travelling through uncharted territory?

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Well, it really depends on the subject of research. If it is related with health for instance, you have a problem to solve there. You can use whatever navigation system you like which however, should be ethically sound to arrive to the solution! I do think that there should be a qualified differentiation of what should be tackled bottom up and what should not.
Public funding institutions are stuck in a dilemma: to what extent could beneficiaries benefit from funds stemming from Tax payers money without causing market distortion and privileging a few! On the other hand, a huge portion of the funding is dedicated to basic research relative to a smaller portion for close-to-the-market solutions. (here needless to name the programmes in mind!!). It is easy said that we have to strike a balance. A good example for that is the currently running discussion about the budget of H2020.

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Living LAbs are not only about user-driven or demand-driven. Living Labs are much more than that. As someone mentioned to me on the phone today, with other approaches you bring products to the market, with living labs you bring the product and the community together. Look at this fantastic example of Mobile Vikings (Frank Bekkers CEO of Mobile Vikings) http://www.slideshare.net/openlivinglabs/11-frank-bekkers "From local Living Lab to European MVNO business". Clear evidence of results

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iMinds (iLab.o) presented yesterday in a regional workshop for ICT SMEs how Living LAbs can help SMEs to innovate, linking it to the framework of the Future Internet PPP. It is worth it to bring this to this Forum because it highlights some winning points of Living Labs with evidence cases in the latest few years. http://www.slideshare.net/openlivinglabs/user-experience-testing-co-crea...

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Thanks ngarcihf to share this example with us. Do you have any example that you could share with us about how ICT have been used in a research process (not as a product to be tested or co-designed with users; but as a tool to enable co-design) that have defenetely helped to transfer the results of the research to the market?

 

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Another good example: iMinds (iLab.o) presenting results and lessons learned on how Living Labs can support SME internationalization from an EU-funded Living Lab initiative Apollon at User Driven Innovation Ecosystems go really Local (2012) in Mechelen. Watch the video behind this link: http://vimeo.com/61533556

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Curiosity driven research is good and researchers like to do ....well research. To
be practical is not bad either and solve the issues that are known to exist.

Necessity is the mother of invention.” ― Plato.

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The key to understand the importance of user driven approach is to understand that communinites are creative by nature. Now, equipped with the digital means, they are more than ever capable of doing things which are utterly impossible to do in any other means. Examples: wikipedia, a 1800-volume encyclopedia (and that's English only) - which publishing house could publish that? So, the whole nature of innovation is changing.
Distributed communities are better than centralized systems at most things, which are scattered (collecting information, crowdfunding, etc) and/or very work-intensive (open source software development, mapping - Open Street Maps). Horizontal, distributed work is very, very efficient, which is already turning into business in for example microtask companies.
The question we should ask is: how can utilize the lateral efficiency of communities for the benefit of our societies, cities and service organisations? How can we bring the efficiency of Internet communities into real, physical communities? This is an especially valid question is those parts of the world, where there's not much else than the community, ie. developing countries. The future of Europe depends on the future of the rest of the world; and when the Social Age matures globally, we should be there to use our experience, expertise and ability to generate trust to build sustainable solutions for the global communities, together with the global communities.

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Fostering and foreseeing innovation is indeed a major challenge. I think that a diversity of approaches is best. As Ecosystem biology teaches us, diversity often help to strive in a changing environment. Here, the different systems will have their advantages and each can be best suited depending on the situation and the type of R&D done.
Having that said, curiosity-driven research, sometime deemed as too risky by funding agencies, can lead to paradigm-shifting results and can open doors whose existence could not have been conceived before. A good and well-known example of this is the fortuitous discovery of Penicillin. Of course, more applied and demand-driven downstream work is also necessary.

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Is it market acceptance the only measure?
H2020 is planning to face societal changes: How do we measure the impact? How do we take the benefit to society?
Taking one example of the ICT for Ageing field, some projects demonstrated promising results involving elder people in social networks and as a consequence improving activity and reducing depression stages. But they failed to identify a sustainable business model. How much money could be saved to the Health Public services if senior adults become more involved in public activities? It is proven that the lack of activity increases the prevalence of chronic conditions (ex. http://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/pdf/2009-power-of-prevention.pdf)
H2020 has a strong focus on Societal Challenges, Why don’t include SROI: Social Return over Investment (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_return_on_investment) in the impact analysis?
If there is not public money assigned to invest in social benefit that could save a lot of public money from other different budget, who is going to pay for such innovation development?
We have got the experience already, ICT for ageing was launched years ago and there are many lessons to be learnt:
- Social impact has to be measure
- Investment in high social impact activities has to be foreseen.
The European Pilot on Social Innovation already shares these arguments. How is going to be promoted along Europe?

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An important point of view. Market is a social construction and by failing to adress social needs, market will fail too. Another issue is if we focus only on social needs without sustainable models

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That is very true. Sustainability model is a key. If the particular challenge and the particular solution could be fitted through conventional market approaches and a there is a suitable business model for it that would be great.

But if business as usual can't provide a sustainable model then other approaches must be implemented. There are already many people working in this direction: SROI (Social Return on Investment) or Hybrid Value Chain are some of them.

Facing Societal Challenges has been mostly until now a Government problem. A new vision is needed. The industrial sector must develop social attitudes and public administrations need to think on terms of efficiency. We all as society need to find new ways of putting together public and private and assume personal responsibilities as citizens.

But many societal challenges excellent solutions will need some public funding at least to be launched. If business as usual model keep been mandatory it won’t work.

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Thanks for your comment. I was wondering if when talking about social return on investment we should distinguish between innovation and research.  Sofia, could we ask to long-term research to predict a social return on investment as you mentioned? is it not too ambitious and maybe dangerous?

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I believe in the debate (and in the literature) there some major sources of misunderstanding about the role of demand driven innovations.
First of all, everyone acknowledged in words -but not in facts- that the technology-push vs. demand-pull debate is a sterile one. While the former suggests that technology dynamics drive the technical change which fulfill the limitless set of human needs, the latter has some faith in tech opportunities which should follow human needs.
However, when a new technology emerge, NO ONE (nor firms nor consumers) know exactly how it will end up to be. Who could think at a mobile phone as a device to send sms... or to play angry birds? Innovation is a bi-directional process of alignment between evolving tech opportunities and changing human needs. Every one learn in this process and products and service evolve along the diffusion. It does not matter who had the idea first (whether a R&D lab or a user), the crucial stage is the diffusion and the technology transfer process which make possible for this idea to became useful and used! At this stage interactions are central. I conceive demand-drive innovations, those innovation where in this stage users take the lead.

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