EurActiv - Letters to the Editor


Not until the EU starts trying not to copy and think ‘out of the box’ will the innovation might of the EU be released. All that we predominantly do in the EU is copy, as the article underscores. That was fine for the Japanese and the Chinese when they were beginning their economic cycles, but the EU are trying to do it the other way around. The problem is that this revisiting of history in the way that has been expressed can only end up in sheer disaster.

Real innovation is thinking up something new, and the EU apparently has forgotten this. Therefore copying is not the answer and we in the EU have to look at the fundamentals far more closely. Indeed, [ we need to] think how can we excel in the world of tomorrow and [we need to think about] where [we shall] find this illusive quality that makes nations great. All I can tell our EU mandarins is to research what the history of science and technology tells us and where the seeds of economic dynamism come from.

If they did this fundamental research they would find that their thinking was flawed and the reason why the Far East will dominate the economic markets of the 21st century. We really do have to get out of this rut of thinking that by copying other nations’ so-called ‘best practice’ that we can excel also.

For if we do not, we take the consequences head on and where we shall certainly not be the winners in this economic war of nations. Indeed, a leading economist stated that in 1952 the West commanded over 90% of world trade. Today we command 50% and in another 50 years’ time we shall command no more than 30% on our present path and thinking.

Considering this, we have to start to fight back for our own long-term good. The first port of call is the history of science and technology: that should be the basis of the EU’s fundamental strategy here.

Dr David Hill
Executive Director
World Innovation Foundation Charity (WIFC)
Bern, Switzerland

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  1. Yes, you are right, copying best practice means you stay simply a follower, one that never gets it the same as the conditions, practices, culture and climate are different, let alone the innovation focus you have. This ease of best practice is consigning Europe to a very poor also run. We need to look beyond today, shed much of the baggage of yesterday but to achieve this we do not have to keep hammering away at the EU Mandarins (this time) but at the heads of the individual EU Governments that simply do not really understand innovation and its contribution, I mean really understand it to ENACT policies that propel us forward.

    There are many GRAND challenges that could unite us all. It is about time the politicans across Europe articualted these to be resolved so we could see the promise of better good in our lives and dramatic improvements in our society to forge a different level of innovation performance.

    We need to update our 20th century thinking (and management) to problems and push way beyond any box. Who said different innovation was easy. It is allowing it to stay in the hands of risk adverse people. We need the brghest minds and dedicated teams at EU & local government level to cut down the barriers and undergrowth that inhibits us today to move forward.

  2. Paul Hobcraft

    I could not agree more with your comments. This is the crux of the matter in firstly allowing Innovation to drive forward the EU. Innovative thought and its application is the fundamental building blocks of future dynamic economies. Unfortunately with our predominantly lawyer based politicians in the West, these people do not understand the power of innovation and what it can bring. But their greatest weakness is that they simply do not read the history of S&T and where the initial fundamental thinking that changes the world comes from. Unlike China and most of the emerging nations who have at their helm scientists of engineers who know ful well the power of innovation, we have control politicians who are still managing the old wealth. What we need are politicians who look to manage new wealth and its creation. Until then the words from EU leaders, ministers and EU senior civil servants concerning the need for a dynamic system of innovation, will just be that, mere words. For one has to place Innovation and its highly needed infrastructure at the top of the political agenda, just as President Hu and others have done. In Hu’s case 2006 when he addressed the nation and said that China would be the first ‘real’ innovation nation where all their people would be involved, not just the academics or professional scientists. This is why China will become unassailable in the 21st century as they have an inclusive vision of innovation unlike the EU and the west of elitism will win through. Nothing is further off the mark as we have been trying elitism for many decades now and all that it has done is to inextricably lead to our economic demise year-on-year. Hu and the Chinese leadership have it right with their thinking, as it is best to use 1.3 billion minds than a small percentage that we actually use in the West (the EU inclusive), most probably no more than 3%.

    I can state now that the Nobel Prizes of the future in science will definitely come from the East and another pointer that we have got our innovation strategy totally wrong in the West.

    But let us hope that more enlightened EU politicians do emerge over the next decade and see that Innovation Policy and the correct mechanism to bring it out is absolutely vital for our long-term economic health and social support systems. For without the creation of NEW wealth, we are simply heading to a world that our future generations will find extremely hard to survive.

    Unfortunately again politicians do not know the difference between old wealth and new wealth. For them I will tell them. Old wealth is what the EU predominantly has now. The problem with old wealth in the true sense is that it robs Peter to pay Paul. In this respect a person may build a company on the back of an existing market. All that this new entity does is to pinch a slice of the existing market and consequently the old concern sees a decline in its sales and profits. Note that old and mature markets are not usually in a growth situation. They therefore do not in reality create new wealth but pinch it from someone else. New wealth is different, as it is something that has been created through something that no-one else has. New wealth is therefore new markets and what the EU has to do in order to take the high ground. Unfortunately vested-interests and powerful lobbying groups to keep the status quo are rife and controlling in the West (including the EU) and thus the concentration to create new markets is not as strong as China et al. Indeed very weak and this is a great drawback in the west and the EU – Politicians do not realise this. We have therefore a great deal wrong with the EU and where our politicians will have to go through an extensive awareness process to change all this. But there again, many politicians are allied to our major western corporations and they too do not wish to change. Our problems consequently to overcome our innovation deficits are extremely huge. It is therefore a battle between the status quo (present vested-interests) and the great need to think out of the box and create new wealth for our long-term economic good, The former is a recipe for disaster and the latter our only hope if we use our intelligence.

    Dr David Hill
    Executive Director
    World Innovation Foundation Charity
    Bern, Switzerland

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