Sunday, June 17, 2007

EU Commissioner Potocnik: EU Needs Innovation Journalism

Here is a video of the EU Commissioner for Science and Research, Janez Potocnik, delivering a speech in favor of the concept of innovation journalism. The transcript is here as a web page, and here as a pdf: Potocnik-injo-speech-14June2007.pdf

The speech was made on thursday June 14 at the regional innovation journalism conference in Ljubljana, Slovenia. The conference, a part of the Slovenian innovation journalism initiative, was arranged by Vibacom, the company founded by Violeta Bulc, who is spearheading the introduction of the injo concept in Slovenia.

As Potocnik refers to in his speech, in February I had the pleasure of a one-on-one with him in Brussels. Violeta and John Hagard, Swedish ambassador to Slovenia, had raised his interest in injo, leading up to an invitation to me to go to Brussels and tell him more about it.

Why should he be interested? As society becomes more innovative, it makes sense that it becomes more important to communicate how knowledge becomes valuable for people.

Another reason for interest is concern: Europe is losing competitiveness in the global innovation economy. Here is a BBC story on it from a few days ago, including quotes by Potocnik. The Lisbon Agenda from March 2000 aims at making the European Union (EU) the most competitive economy in the world and achieving full employment by 2010, i.e. within less than four years from now. Innovation is the key component of it. But in January 2006, former Finnish PM Esko Aho presented the EU "Aho Group Report", sounding the alarm bell, saying that Europe is not on track.

In unusually straight language, the Aho report pointed at a large gap between political rhetoric about the knowledge society and the reality of budgetary and other priorities. It urged Europe’s leaders to take radical action on research and innovation "before it is too late".

Here is where Injo comes in: (check out the earlier post on this blog: Injo Elevator Pitch - Why Democracies Should Care). For a democratic society to focus on the innovation economy, independent journalism needs to cover it. But news rooms are usually organized as traditional production line organizations, where each news beat is a separate line. Innovation crosses the traditional news beats (tech, business, politics, culture news), and is therefore a difficult for traditional news organisations to cover. So even though innovation is the leading driver of economic growth, it will be under-represented in the news. This is a strong reason to why the stumbling progress of the Lisbon Agenda has not reached the broader public discussion in the EU. Everything looks fine on the surface in European society, while it is slowly loosing its edge.

Good independent innovation journalism could make it possible for EU citizens to discuss their competitiveness in the world economy, and enable the democratic processes in the EU to address the issue.

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