Thursday, February 26, 2009

Greener Across The Border

Originally uploaded by rogiro
Today´s Forum Virium Hidden Treasure seminar showed the difficulty of international comparisons in policy debate. A presentation painted a picture of the Dutch innovation system and Innovation Platform as a smooth and efficient actor in fostering innovations. However, what was not mentioned was the heated discussion before the last Dutch parliamentary elections whether the entire organization should continue. It was largely seen as an inefficient bureaucratic failure. Alike what was not mentioned today at Vanha was the recent book by Frans Nauta, the first General Secretary of the Innovation Platform, in which he highly critically went through the setup and work of the body. Nauta, who is currently lecturing on innovation in Arnhem, left the office out of frustration quite quickly due to immense struggles with the government engine.

Before the last elections I did an article for Suomen Kuvalehti on the Dutch Innovation Platform as it was assembled following a Finnish example. Most of the interviewees then criticized the Innovation Platform for its broad agenda and the big publicity around its launch. Whereas in Finland the Science and Technology Council is not known by most people and is largely seen as a coordination body, in the Netherlands the government did a huge publicity stunt around its launch – i.e. it was doomed to fail in its delivery. As Joeri van den Steenhoven said in my interview for Suomen Kuvalehti then:”In Finland compromise means that people discuss, vote on the propositions and everyone lives with the result. In the Netherlands compromise means that we discuss and discuss, we split into numerous subcommittees and make an overall strategy so broad that everyone can keep on doing what they were already doing.” As someone on the coffee break rightly said in the Forum Virium seminar:”The problem with the Innovation Platform is that it has no money so it really cannot initiate much.”

I am all for international comparisons and learning from others. I also hope the Innovation Platform has learned from its start. I am also all for investment in innovation and R&D. But without a full picture of the international case, we end up making the wrong conclusions of it and therefore carry out our changes in false consciousness. But then again, I guess we have come full circle now in the Dutch-Finnish relations: some years ago van den Steenhoven´s and Nauta´s Kennisland was an active lobby in the Netherlands for learning from the Finnish model following Manuel Castells´ and Pekka Himanen´s work. Now we are presented in Helsinki the work of the Innovation Platform only to be followed by statements praising the leadership position of the Netherlands in investing in innovation. How did it go: what goes around, comes around.

1 comment:

Adam said...

Hey, glad you liked the GOOD carpool article I wrote- check out another one:

my email is

Cheers & Tak,