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Innovation must become a way of daily life

Mediocrity will not do. We must do our best. For the last 20 years, this dominant idea has intrigued me, every day of my life.

I am very happy to see organisations in India like the Institutional Excellence Forum put serious and focused attention on this vital game-changer in contemporary times. How does any organisation become globally relevant? This has been my mission for the last two decades. I have visited hundreds of science and technology parks, innovation centres, incubation centres in a large number of countries representing different economies and cultures. With my team, I have led over 100 assignments from national and regional governments, science and technology park management companies and regional development agencies, among others.

I have established The Finnish Institute for Culture and Science, in Japan, an innovation centre in Asia where we have been combining diverse national agencies. I have met hundreds of mayors, governors, and ministers. Everybody has one priority – to be the No. 1 in the world. That is what made me think about what stops us short. For India, one of the most powerful development drivers is the country’s higher-education system. India’s universities are the cradle of its now and tomorrow. Herein lies progress; here are the seeds of innovation. It is important to understand that campuses and universities in India are in transition to be innovation platforms. It is not enough anymore to build nice campuses we should actually build them for a purpose. We should have some kind of socio-economic thinking or special considerations of quality of life so that universities are actually providing something for society. Traditionally, universities have been centres of studying and doing research. But, in the last decade, there has been an increasing pressure on universities to take an active part in innovation and contribute strong positive results to society.

A very relevant topic for a developing country like India, facing the challenges of urbanisation, relates to sustainability and smartness. Innovation activities must be attached to normal urban structures in a way that innovation becomes a part of our everyday life. Campuses as well as science and technology parks must integrate with urban development and transfer into functional innovation platforms in urban city

For example, when we think of campuses and innovation hubs, are they located in a university or a city? From our point of view, both are fine. It depends on local conditions, but the idea is to combine as early as possible, infrastructure and real estate projects to real concepts for innovation. Plan campuses as open innovation platforms.

The public sector, private sector, academia, incubation centres, start-ups, basic education in schools – all must be integrated. The way ahead is in creating a complete system while encouraging all the involved actors to see development in a rich context.

The Author

Dr. Jukka Viitanen,
CEO and Founding Partner, Hubconcepts Inc. He is among the world’s top innovation system development experts and the article is based on his speech at the international conference, ‘The Excellence Agenda–May 2013’ organized by Institutional Excellence Forum in The Grand, New Delhi.