The article

A holistic innovation policy is defined in this article as a policy that integrates all public actions that influence or
may influence innovation processes. The Swedish National Innovation Council (NIC) was created by the Swedish
Prime Minister, Stefan Löfven, in February 2015. It is personally chaired by the prime minister. Another atypical
characteristic of the Swedish NIC is that it has a dominant and wide focus on innovation policy. In other
countries, such councils focus predominantly on science and/or research policy and treat innovation policy, if at
all, as an “appendix” to research policy. The purpose of this article is to answer the following four questions:

  1. Has Swedish innovation policy recently become more holistic?
  2. Has the Swedish National Innovation Council (NIC) had a role in the transition towards a holistic innovation
  3. Have conceptual specifications and advancements played a role in the changes in Swedish innovation
  4. Can the Swedish NIC serve as a role model for other countries and regions in their attempts to initiate and
    govern a holistic innovation policy?

The researcher

Charles Edquist

Professor and Senior Researcher in Innovation Studies at CIRCLE and at the Division of Innovation Engineering,

Lund University

The interview

Charles is an honor for me to have you here today at coffee break, how are you doing?

I’m doing quite fine

I highly enjoy my Colombian black coffee today, are you having any coffee?

The coffee I enjoy most is actually cafe con leche as they do it in the southern Spain I hope you don’t mind.

I love that coffee too I have to confess. Charles I want to talk with you today about a very influential paper you wrote the one called towards a holistic innovation policy, could you please tell us what the paper was about?

The paper is about how innovation policy is the design of a nation policy is organized in Sweden, and it is based on a theory called the systems of innovation approach, which we can talk about later and they the politicians they gradually understood how important innovations is for Society, so first they wanted to deal with innovation policy as a part of research policy but it did not work so therefore the Prime Minister himself Steven Levy and he created this national innovation council and except for the chairman there are four other ministers and ten external advisors in the council and I am one of the advisors, which means that the paper is partly participant observation kind of paper likely the anthropologist right.

I understand that one of the reasons why this paper became so influential is because of the notion of systems of innovation, could you please give us a definition of this?

There are many definitions of systems of innovation so I will give you mine and it is very simple, I defined system of innovation as all determinants that influence innovation process, all determinants because in other definitions various researchers they deal only with some of the determinants or the causes of innovation processes, this system innovation approach actually was developed in the early 1990s and it replaced something called the linear view and that is completely out of mode this day because we realised that it was wrong and the systems of innovation approach is has been very influential and successful and one indication of that is that if you’re going to Google an right system system of innovation within quotation mark marks you will get 15 million hits and that’s really incredible.

I can imagine that I tried myself after you suggested a it is true, it is incredible so I wanted to talk I want to talk about the findings of the paper and why do you think this this was so so important after was released?

Findings are one that innovation policy in Sweden during these five or seven years has become more holistic, it has taken more and more determinants into account when creating the policy, second conclusion is that this innovation councils had an important role in the transition towards a holistic innovation policy in Sweden and also the conceptual advancement advancement played a role in the changes  in the Swedish innovation politic, like systems innovation like additionality and some other notions, and finally the 4th conclusion in the the paper is that that the Swedish national innovation Council can be a role model for other countries and it has actually happened in France, they have created an innovation council also and and that was based on the experience of the Swedish one and there are discussions in several other countries about creating a similar kind of innovation council.

I’m very very interested also knowing more about your personal experience, not only in writing this paper but also in the whole process, which I understand was very very insightful an an interesting for you could you please tell us something about that?

It’s it’s a long story of course so I give you a just a small piece of it I have been dealing with innovation all the time since I was a student and and I realised at that time the importance of innovation for society, for societal development and for example innovations or technology has destroyed much of our environment and now we’re trying to reverse this and get help from innovation to save the environment and climate and this is a matter of political questions and then when I got a chance to be a member of this innovation council I came very close to the actual decision makers and it was extremely stimulating to partly understand how the relations between politicians, policy-makers and and researchers actually works or not works. So finally I want to ask you about the policy implications which for this paper are incredibly important and although you had policy-makers in front of you now imagine that you have policymakers from around the world watching you why would you say to them what are the policy implications of your paper? first I want to say that actually innovation research is ahead of innovation policy in in the thinking about how to influence innovation process is the politicians they are still thinking very much in in linear terms believing that research is the main determinant of innovation, it is one determinant of innovation, but there are many others are usually talk about a ten different determinants innovation, so in this sense innovation research can be very helpful for political processes and for processes that influence innovations and just a very short example of that is that we wrote a book Susana Borras and myself wrote a book called holistic innovation policy, it came out sometime ago and we just learned that it has been translated into Chinese and this is just an indication that the Chinese they really know the Chinese leadership they really know that their progress has been much very much thanks to innovation policies and they want to absorb everything they can that deals with innovation process and innovation policy.

Wow that’s a great experience and thank you for all your insights and again for for that paper, which I’m sure will be will continue to be highly influential and thank you once again

Charles, for your time those are all my questions and I wish you all the best and I hope to see you soon in a coffee break. Thank you very much thank you for watching if you’re interested in more details about this academic publication, you can find here that link below find us on Twitter, Facebook and Youtube or listen to our podcast on Spotify.