And how can we use innovation to build cities that are more enjoyable to live in?The good news is that we don’t have to look very far for lessons to learn from.
Similarly, the Global Positioning System (GPS) was not discovered so that we can use Google maps on our i Phones, but rather for military and intelligence uses to solve specific problems when the US was at the height of the Cold War competing with the Soviet spacecraft Sputnik in 1957.
In other words, both the internet and GPS were spillovers from missions.
And while tax incentives (and cuts) might increase profits, they often don’t increase investment.
Mission oriented policies can, if designed appropriately, catalyse expectations about new opportunities and in so doing catalyse cross sectoral investments which can also better balance economies that are often too skewed in particular areas.
In other words, mission setting can catalyse a wave of public and private investments that tackle key societal and technological challenges and redirect the process of economic growth, so that we solve concrete problems while also better aligning the economic agenda with the innovation agenda.
On February 22nd 2018, I published my recommendations to the European Commission in a new report launched in Brussels: ‘Mission Oriented Research and Innovation in the European Union: a problem solving approach to fuel innovation-led growth’.By setting missions that require different sectors to work together — it is possible to create instruments that reward those businesses willing and able to co-invest alongside investments by the European Commission and member states.It is not about subsidies, but about co-investments along the entire innovation chain.Rather this is a way to steer economic growth in more meaningful ways.Indeed, in a historical period in which business investment is lagging, missions also provide more excitement about where economic growth opportunities might lie.Last week, the Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose (IIPP) launched a new Commission on Mission Oriented Innovation and Industrial Strategy (MOISS).The idea is to use the UK government’s Industrial Strategy to support not sectors, but problems facing UK society.Of course we all recognise that science is needed to produce medicines, but what is the role of research and innovation in producing a more ‘caring’ society and solutions to health care ?Equally, while we know that science is needed for the emergence of renewable energy, what is the role of research and innovation in producing economies that are more sustainable across areas of production, distribution and even consumption patterns?For the next framework programme (Framework 9), a mission approach will help steer investments towards tackling challenges using a more focussed problem-solving lens.Problems are more specific than challenges, but much broader than a specific technology or a sector.