IASP European workshop was held in Mjärdevi with a focus on social transformation, accelerating technology – and the future role of innovation environments

Social transformation and how technology can promote resource-efficient and creative development was the theme of a European conference, which brought together European science parks, incubators, and cluster organizations for a few days in Linköping. Together with representatives from companies, academia and society discussed the development of our future communities. In September, the discussion continues when the International Association of Science Parks and Areas of Innovation holds its World Conference on Industry 4.0 in Nantes, France.

Industry Association’s General Director, Luis Sanz, launched the conference with a brief look back over the science park’s role historically, where academia-market collaboration has been a common thread both when researching an environment for commercialization or when the market formulated needs that have been met through new research results. Throughout, the innovation environments have been committed to building an entrepreneurial culture that has been grown over time. In his future pursuit, Luis Sanz highlighted that we are in an evolutionary break time, where religious, political, and philosophical systems are about to break down; where politics has become increasingly emotional, and where ”fake news” has entered the community.

– We are in a time when new thinkers and philosophers have begun a discussion on transhumanism or posthumanism, where we can outsmart death and live forever. We live in a time when emerging technologies are developing so fast that most things can be solved with technology. Here the conversation about visions with an ethical direction becomes invaluable. As leaders of our science parks and areas of innovation, we have an essential function here to gather around this important conversation, said Luis Sanz. We need to guide and support our politicians, and we must continuously work with getting more and larger groups to handle the changes we face ”.

The world’s first fossil-free welfare state – hooking Europe? Darja Isaksson, Director General of Vinnova, offered a view of Swedish innovation capacity and future global challenges. Darja Isaksson emphasized that today we use the technology in ways that we are not always aware of the consequences, and posed the question ”how do we create algorithms that support our visions and goals?”

– The vulnerability that the new technology and the rapid development pace are facing us should be managed by the fact that we go side by side with the development and test new findings, methods and working methods. We need to test and evaluate continuously – to avoid the big mistakes when we carry out large-scale social changes. The next period will not be business as usual. We need to transform our societies into sustainable places, and that means new ways of working, making decisions – and new business models to support this. This is no individual organization’s responsibility, and we have to work together to solve future challenges. And we all have a responsibility to own the initiative to help increase knowledge and inspire new solutions. “The greatest innovation of our time will be about how we innovate”. Clusters, incubators and science parks all contribute to this work. We need to find more collaboration across borders; Ignite is a good example. We need more such examples.

Minister for Enterprise Ibrahim Baylan offered political visions and expressed a clear ambition that Sweden should take the leadership in climate work to the next level and become the world’s first fossil-free welfare state.
”We have proven that it is possible to build economic prosperity, create new jobs – and at the same time work with ambitious climate and sustainability goals,” he said. Now we will lower the use of fossil fuels from the remaining 3% to zero. I am convinced that it will.

He called for more European cooperation and emphasized that he sees that Europe has an excellent opportunity to build competitiveness by taking a position in sustainability and climate. Ibrahim Baylan stressed the importance of collaboration between business, academia, and society.
– It is a model that served Sweden well, and which we will continue to invest in.

The day contained several panel discussions. In a first panel discussion, large companies such as Saab, Siemens, ABB, and Cybercom described how they work with sustainability as a guideline for future development. Agenda 2030 drives innovation between companies, said Kristina Cato, Sustainability Manager at Cybercom. ”We have the vision Electricity for all,” said Hans Holmström, CEO of Siemens Turbo Machinery. We are focused on reducing the use of fossil fuels, and increasing the conversion to renewable energy sources ”. ”Saab has long been an innovation leader,” said Elisabeth Åbom, CTO at Saab Aerostructures. ”Military research that led to the sale of Gripen has given back factor 2.6 of Gripen’s sales revenue to commercialization within the civilian sector. It’s a good deal for the citizens. Saab has long been a leader in innovation and commercialized research results, but now we feel that we need to open up and take in new knowledge from startups, universities and science parks to increase their own competence and create better conditions for building future competitiveness ”.

Several of the representatives raised the challenge to stop working in silos and to use the collective intelligence within their operations. They also highlighted the strength in collaboration with clusters, incubators and science parks. “It is an advantage to be in – and connect to, environments where there is a critical mass, and where competence and talent are refined and cross-fertilized.

Technology and collaboration should support the social transformation
Three of the region’s startups were able to pitch during the day; Skymaker, Interspectral and XM Reality. In the subsequent panel discussion, they highlighted the importance of accessing networks with large companies, researchers and public organizations.

”A good first customer is invaluable for a young innovative company,” said Kristofer Skyttner, CEO of Skymaker. We had the privilege to participate in the Siemens Popup Collaboration Expo a month ago, which gave us a good insight into the customer needs and an opportunity to showcase our technology for flexible production for a broad range of R&D in the company. Through a co-creation process on how technology can be used within Siemens, we managed to develop such a good idea that it resulted in a funded pilot project together with Siemens.

In two following panels composed of researchers, leaders for incubators, clusters and science parks, as well as representatives of regional development and research institutes, collaborations were discussed to a great extent; companies between – large and small, companies and the public sector, academia and companies, etc. The discussion on emerging technologies discussed how technology development takes place at an exponential rate, and how the clusters can contribute to strengthening abilities by increasing collaboration between companies and businesses. They can help to raise knowledge in society, to more and more resource-efficient solutions for society and companies, but also job creation in their area. Fredrik Heintz, a researcher at Linköping University, and Sweden’s AI expert highlighted the importance of continuing to be at the forefront. He pointed out that artificial intelligence is created by, for and with people.
– We will get the best results if we work together with AI, side by side. Sweden can play an important role in AI-related sustainability and ethics issues, said Fredrik Heintz.

In a final discussion between the innovation support actors, it was emphasized that the rapid development of society places demands not only on companies, researchers and society – but also on innovation support actors. To be able to support and support different parties, we need to understand the challenges, but also be a force that initiates and advances the conversation between various parties. New global challenges call for new collaborative constellations, said Elin Holst-Granlund, member of the board of Swedish Incubators and Science Parks and working at Dalarna Science Park. Science Parks can gather not only companies, academia and society, but also different constellations of innovation actors that can contribute to this social transformation.

– We have an important conversation to carry on, said Lena Miranda, CEO of Science Park Mjärdevi and chairman of SISP, the conversation about our future society and how it should look to best support our citizens. I am very much thinking about how we in our roles as leaders of science parks and incubators can contribute to creating the right conditions for an engaging and forward-looking dialogue that puts a focus on the opportunities but not afraid to confront the threats. We need to talk more about visions, and the ethical direction for further development. Tech with a purpose needs to be raised on the agenda in more forums.

Facts

The International Association of Science Park and Areas of Innovation is an international trade association that encompasses more than 350 members with more than 115,000 companies in 78 countries. IASP was founded in 1984, and several Swedish science parks are active members, including Johanneberg Science Park, Ideon, Västerås Science Park and Science Park Mjärdevi. Among the latest members to be found are Luleå Science Park and Dalarna Science Park. Since 2015, Caroline Drabe, CEO of Västerås Science Park, is a member of the international board. SISP is also a member of IASP. This year’s World Conference has the theme ”Industry 4.0” and takes place in Nantes, France. The 2020 conference will revolve around talent attraction and be held in Seville.