Building an innovation culture

Rationale and objectives

Three decades ago the OECD Declaration on Future Policies for Science and Technology underscored the importance of raising awareness of science and technology (S&T), and recommended public participation in the definition of major technological orientations. This includes public access to information concerning foreseeable long-term impacts of S&T and fostering public understanding of science and technology. Furthermore, it is increasingly recognised that innovation is influenced by certain social and cultural values, norms, attitudes and behaviours which may be described as an innovation culture. More and more governments therefore consider it important to foster and strengthen an innovation culture through policy measures, based on the assumption that cultures and social behaviours are amendable.
Today, public debates on the impact of S&T on human society are still unfolding. Indeed, recent incidences such as the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident and increasing public inquiries into the scientific evidences on global warming and the role of scientists in influencing the public, especially the governmental opinions on this issue have triggered off some serious rethinking and reassessment on the impacts of S&T on social and economic developments.

Major aspects

Policy measure aimed at raising public awareness of and interest in S&T seek to foster public respect for S&T and to appreciate and value the contribution of S&T and, increasingly, innovation as economic activities and professions, especially among young people, with a view to attracting more of them to pursue higher education in S&T disciplines.
As entrepreneurial uptake is an integral part of innovation, fostering an entrepreneurial spirit and attitude is another main objective of public policy. This involves changing, where necessary, cultural perceptions of entrepreneurial activities and their contribution to social and economic development, and fostering a positive attitude towards entrepreneurial risk taking and acceptance of failure.
Various policy measures also aim at specific weaknesses in social and professional cultures, such as the need for a research culture in universities, commercialisation of research results from public research, and the need to raise awareness of intellectual property rights in the research community and the general public.

Recent policy trends

Science is still the centre of focus in many countries, but some have already shifted towards a science-and-innovation focus. For example, a culture of science and innovation has been a policy objective in Belgium, and Spain has launched a National Programme for the Promotion of Scientific Culture and Innovation. To raise awareness, countries adopt a wide variety of measures. Alongside traditional awareness-raising measures such as hosting high-visibility international events (e.g. the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, hosted by Canada in 2012) and the science weeks held in Australia, Belgium (Flanders), Brazil, France, Norway, South Africa, etc., new forms that appeal to young people are being explored. Examples include Poland's Science Picnic, Europe's largest outdoor event for promoting science; Germany's highly successful BIOTechnikum, which travels around Germany in a double-decker truck to spread information on modern biotechnology and on career prospects to encourage young scientists; the Slovak Republic's Innovative Deed of the Year, an annual competition to select the best young designer, and Chile's Chile VA! which aims at motivating interest rather than teaching specific knowledge. The Internet has also been used in various new ways to promote an innovation culture, from the first federal library mobile website in Canada to Israel's EUREKA web portal.
Specific policy measures may be refined to give attention to specific targets: women (e.g. Women in Science Awards of South Africa and Women in Science and Engineering [WISE] campaign in the United Kingdom); highly talented young people; closing the digital gap; or a specific scientific discipline, such as life sciences, biotechnology or space.
Compared to measures for raising awareness in science, initiatives to raise awareness of entrepreneurship lag behind in many countries, in terms of number of activities. Raising awareness of science tends to be primarily the purview of government, while raising awareness of entrepreneurship tends to be built on partnerships with the business community.
Entrepreneurship awareness raising focuses on youth in virtually all countries. The development of an entrepreneurial spirit and creativity is mainly pursued through targeted school activities and through curricula in which entrepreneurship is included as an optional or a compulsory subject of study from secondary school up to postgraduate study (Austria, Denmark, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, Switzerland, Turkey). Austria also includes entrepreneurship in the new teacher training model.
Improving the entrepreneurial environment at universities and research institutions and increasing the number of technology- and knowledge-based business start-ups are policy objectives in some countries. Germany has implemented in recent years programmes on the culture of entrepreneurship, business start-up grants and transfer of research that focus on research institutions and universities. Slovenia introduced mandatory entrepreneurship courses for fellows in the Young Researchers Programme to equip them with basic training on setting up a business and knowledge on support available in university incubators or intermediary institutions.
Raising awareness about the protection of intellectual property rights (IPRs) is a priority in countries where public awareness of the concept is weak. Many countries have programmes aimed at increasing awareness of IPRs in the population and boosting patent applications by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). TUBITAK, the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey, in collaboration with the Turkish Patent Institute (TPE), has implemented a Programme to Encourage and Support Patent Application for companies and individuals, and the Turkish Ministry of Science, Industry and Technology has organised workshops to raise awareness of IP and technology transfer in universities, public research institutions, technoparks and other public institutions. The People's Republic of China's new IP strategy adopted in 2008 includes promoting public awareness of IP and developing an IP culture by popularising information on IP through the media, by providing IP education in higher education institutions, and by teaching about IP in primary and high schools. To raise public awareness of IPRs, the Chinese government organises annually an IP week, and several government ministries and agencies carried out an IPR protection and anti-counterfeiting special action in 2011.

References and further reading

Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), (2010), Public Attitudes to Science, Summary Report, Ipsos MORI, London.
National Science Foundation (2004), “Science and Technology: Public Attitudes and Understanding” , Chapter 7 in Science and Engineering Indicators 2004, NSF, Washington, DC.
National Science Foundation (2010), “Science and Technology: Public Attitudes and Understanding” Chapter 7 in Science and Engineering Indicators 2010, NSF, Washington, DC.
OECD (1981), “Declaration on Future Policies for Science and Technology” , 19 March 1981, Annex to C(81)51.
OECD (2005), “Research Mission and Culture” , Chapter 3 in University Research Management: Developing Research in New Institutions, OECD, Paris.


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Innovation culture