March 31, 2015

Guest blog post: We’re building blocks to develop an open model for innovation

The Bubble Session was inspiring, pondering about what we discussed, I am faced with an important question: can current innovation models transform to become more inclusive so to efficiently target the gigantic challenges the world faces towards 2030?

If we look at the approach that Linda took to innovate in education for children, we can find how innovation can use new models to develop solutions that handle key problems more efficiently than traditional innovation models. Linda's story on her book project shows us how the conventional models to fund innovation can be challenged to result in a solution to a meaningful problem that has a great added value to society. That brings in front of me the following question: are there better ways in which society can fund innovation that are more democratic and as a result can give a higher value to society?

I believe that it would be of great value of using 'crowd-sourcing'-like innovation funding methods, where a broader group of society can be involved in the decision making process to invest public funds. Not only society will see in a more transparent and accessible way the use of common resources, but also innovation efforts can be oriented to tackle problems that concern a larger part of society.

During the talk Taneli brought up the idea of 'remixing to revolutionize' – meaning to use all those resources openly available to mix and create something new. This is now possible, thanks to the models for software development pioneered in the software community for many decades. We have seen in the past few years how these models have been adopted to open hardware platforms, and even in open standards. If one looks at how different projects are being realized with these models, it is impossible not to be amazed: hundreds of people investing their time to develop new software or hardware, driven by the need of solving interesting problems and creating ' something new ' that makes life better – therefore given a contribution to society.

What we can see for the elements above is that the main building blocks to develop an open model for innovation – all the way from funding, through execution, to assessment – are in place. This might be the building blocks that would allow us to develop sustainable technology that can help us face the 2030's perfect storm, the how, perhaps needs a little more thinking, but questioning today's models is not a bad starting point!

Dr. Luigi Vanfretti is Associate Professor and Docent at the Electric Power Systems Department of KTH Royal Institute of Technology. He’s also an advisor to the Research and Development Division of the operator in the Norwegian energy system, Statnett as well as an evangelist and advocate for free and open source software.

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