SHIFT project concludes with handbook on eco-innovation support scheme design

SHIFT project concludes with handbook on eco-innovation support scheme design

Support systems designed to underpin entrepreneurship and innovation are still insufficiently focused on eco-innovation and sustainability, according to the final recommendations of a research project supported by the ECO-INNOVERA Network.

Environmental, social and economic benefits

The SHIFT project (Support Systems for Sustainable Entrepreneurship and Transformation) ran from January 2012 to January 2016. In a project summary published in January 2016, it noted that “most parts of the innovation and entrepreneurship support systems still have a clear focus on generating economic benefits,” and have not yet fully embraced a paradigm in which “multi-purpose” benefits – environmental, social and economic – will be delivered.

Support systems for entrepreneurship and innovation can include government support, universities, incubators, business development organisations and other forms of support and funding that help innovation get off the ground. SHIFT looked at these support systems in three countries that are typically regarded as leading on innovation – Germany, Finland and Sweden. According to SHIFT, in these countries, new ideas to boost eco-innovation are being explored, and the role of eco-innovation in tackling societal problems is fully recognised. But even in these countries “integrating sustainability systematically and holistically in the support system for innovation and entrepreneurship has not yet occurred in practice.”

Recommendations to support eco-innovation

The SHIFT project summary provides a range of recommendations to different organisations involved in support for eco-innovation, and identifies current best practices, making the summary a useful handbook for anyone involved in innovation support. SHIFT's seven basic recommendations for mainstreaming sustainability into innovation support are the following:

  • Design specific schemes that match the support needs of eco-innovators.
  • Make such schemes “easily accessible”, with clear guidance.
  • Experimentation with the design of support systems for eco-innovation is still needed, and this should be encouraged.
  • Recognise that eco-innovation might arise in very different sectors and markets, and tailor support accordingly.
  • Greater sustainability is needed across all innovative activities, and not just within a sustainable innovation silo; therefore all entrepreneurs should be encouraged to take sustainability into account, and to understand the risks from not considering sustainability.
  • Although sustainability should be mainstreamed in support systems, specialisation is also needed for eco-innovative communities and clusters.
  • Support activities “should contribute to specific goals”, though not just economic goals; suitable information to allow evaluation of progress towards wider goals (including environmental and social goals) needs to be made available to policymakers and those that make decisions about support systems.

For more information:

The summary of results and recommendations from the SHIFT ECO-INNOVERA project is available at http://www.shift-project.eu/uploads/2/5/6/0/25603894/shift_broschuere_160108.pdf  

The SHIFT project website is at http://www.shift-project.eu

The ECO-INNOVERA website is at https://www.eco-innovera.eu