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Industrial innovation

Social innovation

Splash of colour

The term "social innovation" is relatively new, but the concept itself is not. There are many examples of social innovation throughout history, from kindergartens to hospices, and from the cooperative movement to microfinance.

What is social innovation?

Social innovations are new ideas (products, services and models) that simultaneously meet social needs (more effectively than alternatives) and create new social relationships or collaborations.

(Open Book of Social Innovation, Murray, Calulier-Grice and Mulgan, March 2010)

These solutions are both social in their ends and in their means. They can take the form of genuine innovations or of improved solutions. In some parts of Europe, the term "social innovation" refers to what the European Commission calls workplace innovation.

What do we do about social innovation?

In coordination with other departments of the European Commission, we foster social innovation in Europe in many ways: 

NetworkingWe help organisations across Europe to connect, learn from each other and share experiences – Social Innovation Europe was launched in March 2011. It is a collaborative hub set up for that purpose, anyone is welcome to register and contribute.
CompetitionWe organise the European Social Innovation Competition every year to directly support new solutions and raise awareness about social innovation – go to the Competition webpages. Social innovation is also covered by other EU awards such as the RegioStars awards.  We also partner with competitions outside, such as the Naples 2.0 – International Social Innovation Competition  or the Social Innovation Tournament organised by the European Investment Bank Institute.
EU fundingWe offer direct funding to support social innovation through the Employment and Social Innovation Programme (EaSI) or Horizon 2020, particularly under the SME Instrument which is also open to social enterprises. Social innovation may also be funded in your country or region under the EU structural and investment funds - Guide to Social Innovation .
FinanceWe share information about available financial support, which can be mobilised from public sector organisations, foundations or private investors; main ones are presented in the report Financing social impact. Funding social innovation in Europe pdf - 846 KB [846 KB] issued in February 2012.
Framework conditionsWe improve the conditions for social innovation and social enterprises in Europe – learn about the latest activities under the Social Business Initiative and sign the Declaration for Social Entrepreneurship produced by the participants in the Strasbourg event on 16-17 January 2014. A mapping of social enterprises' ecosystems in each of the 28 Member States is now available.
ResultsWe gather and disseminate evidence about the benefits of social innovation and methodologies for result measurement – see the report Strengthening social innovation in Europe Journey to effective assessment and metrics pdf - 2 MB [2 MB] (2012) and the work on social impact carried out within the Social Business Initiative.
IncubationWe support incubation structures for social innovation in Europe – read the conclusions of the workshop pdf - 3 MB [3 MB] organised in March 2012 and get in touch with the two EU-wide networks of incubators put in place in October 2013, Transition and Benisi.
Scaling upWe encourage innovators to think big from the beginning and to aim for systemic change in Europe – we explore the issue in Systemic Innovation pdf - 712 KB [712 KB] of December 2012.

 The Directorate General Enterprise and Industry funds the following current projects:

Social Innovation Europe

Where can you get more information?

Send us an email and we will answer your questions!

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