Innovation is increasingly an imperative for the success of firms, regions and nations in the contemporary economy. We have moved beyond the Fordist era of standardised mass production towards an economy based on flexible specialisation, where people demand customised and varied products that cater to their individuality. This is particularly the case for the high-cost economies of the western world, as manufacturing industries are moving production to low-cost countries entering global markets.
The way ahead for development in these economies is through innovation. These economies need to sustain their high wage costs through remaining more productive than their competitors, which in most cases can only happen through innovation. Firms and regions that develop the most advanced technologies can reap innovation rents, and innovation is also an imperative for greater product variety that can sustain niche markets.
One week ahead of the Norwegian General Election, we ask how Norway can promote innovation and remain competitive in this context. Norway has spent less on research and development, in particular in industry, than other Nordic countries, and has also been less successful in entering new knowledge-intensive industries. Policy debates have also tended not to focus on innovation: UiS rector Marit Boyesen noted in March that she was fed up with road building and infrastructure getting all the attention in discussions of regional development.
The government’s research white paper in the spring also offered little in the way of new ideas and policies for developing a knowledge-based economy. With an increasing impetus to diversify from the dependence on oil and gas, innovation is an important topic that deserves more attention in the policy debate.
In order to discuss these issues, the University of Stavanger has invited some of the world’s leading thinkers on innovation and regional development to its “Innovation Days”. The event will kick off with the annual ceremony for the Sparebank 1 - SR-Bank Innovation Prize. Besides the delivery of the prize, the ceremony will encompass a keynote by Professor Michael Storper, who will present findings from his latest book, Keys to the City, in which he emphasizes the importance of innovation for regional development. This will be followed by a roundtable discussion of how to develop a future-oriented policy for innovation and regional development.
The ensuing workshop will showcase current research on innovation at the UiS Business School. This will include the first-ever presentation of results from our most recent survey of Norwegian firms, collected in the spring/summer of 2013 – following up an earlier survey in 2010 that garnered national and international media attention, including in the Washington Post. Friday offers an opportunity to learn about cutting-edge research on innovation from some of the world’s leading academics in the field, specially invited for this event.
The event marks a new commitment to innovation at the University of Stavanger. The university joined ECIU - The European Consortium for Innovative Universities in 2012 to work with universities across Europe to promote regional innovation and collaboration with industry. Furthermore, the university has established two new professorships in innovation studies from September 2013, both of which are launched during this meeting.