Some four years ago, at the height of the financial crisis, the European Commission appointed an Expert Panel to consider how service innovation might contribute to Europe’s 2020 agenda of achieving smarter, sustainable and inclusive growth.
The Expert Panel reported to Antonio Tajani, Vice-President of the European Commission, in February 2011. It recommended that EU policy should focus on the major systems transformation that was underway across the public and private sectors, driven by new business models and enabled by a modern infrastructure and knowledge intensive service firms. Examples of this could be found in the way in which the retail sector and entertainment were being transformed by online services, health and care systems were being transformed by tele-health and tele-care, and, more broadly, in how services provided in, and by, cities were moving away from the traditional silos, towards more integrated approaches based on the information being generated by users.
The panel described this phenomenon as the transformative power of service innovation and recommended that governments and the Commission should give more focus to the concept of Large Scale Demonstrators to test and validate these new approaches and, thereby, enable the rapid scale up and dissemination of potential solutions across the European market. To help develop this focus, it was suggested that the Commission should establish a European Service Innovation Centre (ESIC) and, as Chairman of the Expert Panel, I warmly welcome the speed with which the Commission has responded to this challenge.
The ESIC is already identifying key metrics, against which all the regions of Europe can measure their capacity to transform their competitiveness. In particular, it is examining the policies within six pilot regions – Northern Ireland, Limburg, Luxemburg, Emilia Romagna, Upper Austria and the Canary Islands – to compare different approaches to business and regional transformation. I shall be particularly interested in how they address the four key elements which the panel identified:
But perhaps the most important ingredient is the leadership shown by the regional authorities and innovative firms in seeking to regenerate and transform established sectors in favour of new processes and new business models, regardless of the sector. Of course, this is hard to measure but, as Europe emerges from the financial crisis, it is vital that all the regions of Europe display that leadership and stake their claim to the mobile capital and highly mobile skilled young people, who are looking for the right business and social environments to express their talents. I would submit that a willingness to experiment in the form of Large Scale Demonstrators provides that signal and has a key message, which says to entrepreneurs and young people, “We are up for transformation, we are up for change.”