Wednesday, November 21, 2018

The Logic of Inclusive Innovation: From Inputs to Outcomes

The Canadian Science Policy Conference (CSPC) 2018 edition was held in Ottawa recently and featured an excellent array of speakers focused on Building Bridges Between Science, Policy and Society. I had the good fortune to attend and also to convene a panel of experts on the topic of inclusive innovation:
  • Dori Tunstall, Dean of Design, OCAD University, on BIPOC entrepreneurship (and Black Panther!)
  • Malavika Kumaran, Senior Associate, Research, MaRS Data Catalyst, on women in tech
  • Ken Doyle, Executive Director of TechAccess Canada on later-stage R&D and diversity of activity
  • Dominique Bérubé, Vice-President, Research Programs, SSHRC will address the role of humanities and social sciences in addressing grand challenges and multidisciplinary research.

In order to achieve inclusive innovation, we need to ensure that the inputs, activities and outputs are inclusive. When we do so, we leverage the full spectrum of capacity from across society, and help to build more resilient social, cultural and economic outcomes.

Here is the summary of our panel:

What is inclusive innovation? How do we achieve it?

These are important questions to ask as we continue to pivot into a knowledge based global economy. Inclusive innovation is a worthy outcome to strive for. But in order to achieve it, we need to ensure that the inputs are inclusive. We can usefully plot this into a logic model, which provides a way for understanding the relationships between the various inputs, activities and outputs that will help us achieve the outcome(s) commensurate with the focus on inclusive innovation.

When we look at innovation through this lens and work back from the goal of inclusive innovation we can see that there are gaps in the material conditions that would support the outcome of inclusive innovation. Innovation inputs usefully include the pipeline of science and technology and research and development (S&T and R&D), funding, people, culture, activities: those conditions and material supports that are put into play against any innovation effort. For the purposes of our logic model we can usefully who is involved in innovation, what do they do, and what happens as a result.
·      Actors: ensuring that decolonization, diversity and equity lens is applied to all people engaging in innovation related activities – we want to ensure that the inputs to innovation are inclusive. 
·      Activities: what activities are prioritized? We need to focus on diverse activities across the span of research and development (R&D), the disciplines needed to stand up multidisciplinary effort, and the complementary skills and competencies needed to realize outputs and outcomes.
·      Outputs: what is produced that will reflect diverse inputs? What happens if we only count what is easy to count? The OECD’s innovation categories are useful here.
·      Outcomes: an inclusive society with a growth-focused economy in a global environment.
Understanding each of these in turn will help us rethink how we approach innovation, what activities we prioritize and why, and what outputs and outcomes we can expect to see.

Innovation Actors

By ensuring that we support decolonization, diversity and equity we can help to create the conditions for inclusive innovation. This means ensuring that we have gender diversity and parity, and equal representation from diverse cultural groups, in order to ensure that we have equal representation on the inputs and ideas that promote and formulate innovation. The historical conditions that have created baked-in biases have resulted in a politics of exclusion that we are only recently starting to unpack. Calling for inclusive innovation compels us to engage in decolonizing our approach to social inclusion. We can ensure that everyone can access education and therefore be a full, equal and meaningful participant in innovation activities.

Innovation Activities

Innovation activities also benefit from a variety of skills and competencies. These are most often utilized and deployed in concert with complementary skills, disciplines, points of view. To achieve inclusive innovation we must see the actors not only through a diversity and equity lens, but also diversity in the skills, competencies, disciplines, and credentials required at each step in the innovation process.

The activities of innovation also assume a balanced approach across the spectrum of research – from Basic Research, through Applied Research and Experimental Development.[1] Complementarity across the spectrum of S&T and R&D requires innovation systems to leverage multiple points of contact in order to achieve innovation outcomes, including those disciplines and activities in the experimental development end of the spectrum.

Innovation Outputs

The full spectrum of innovation defined by the OECD includes product, process, organizational and marketing innovation. Each of these represents a key set of social, cultural and economic indicators, with assumed activities and outputs:
  1. Product innovation: A good or service that is new or significantly improved. This includes significant improvements in technical specifications, components and materials, software in the product, user friendliness or other functional characteristics.
  2. Process innovation: A new or significantly improved production or delivery method. This includes significant changes in techniques, equipment and/or software.
  3. Marketing innovation: A new marketing method involving significant changes in product design or packaging, product placement, product promotion or pricing.
  4. Organisational innovation: A new organisational method in business practices, workplace organisation or external relations. [2]
The types of activities are contingent on the innovation category. In a recent op-ed Beckton, Irvine and McDonald state that “mainstream networks, incubators and accelerators often don't cater to female entrepreneurs and the industries in which they operate”, which compounds another issue they identify related to innovation outputs: “a marketplace where key participants still tend to define innovation in terms of technology and goods. The result is a situation where innovations that flow from other parts of the marketplace – innovations often created by women running service companies – are not seen in a similar, positive light.”[3] This is an important point.

Innovation Outcomes

Inclusive innovation means focusing not just on simple to count measures such as patents and publications, but on the full spectrum of innovation outputs.

·      We need to ask: whose perspective has been left out of innovation?
·      What activities and disciplines are needed to facilitate innovation?
·      What outputs result from these inputs?

When we look at innovation through this lens and work back from the goal of inclusive innovation we can see that there are gaps in the material conditions that would support the outcome of inclusive innovation.

[1] OECD Frascati Manual 2.1.64. See The OECD uses the terms Science and Technology (how national governments understand the public production of knowledge) and Industrial Research and Development (how national governments understand private sector R&D and innovation related activities.

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