Innovator Spotlight: Gov’t Funding Superseded by Social Innov.
Jesus Perdomo is a professor of business administration at the Pontificia Universidad Javerianain Bogota, Colombia. There, he specializes in innovation and how to unify administration with design.
The concept and practice of social innovation is highlighting a paradox: social innovation does not require social investment. Let us consider two scenarios.
The theory of economic and social development has been seen through technological innovation as a determining factor of progress and wellbeing. This innovation is defined in turn as corporate responsibility and as an engine of sustainability in the market. However, the intensive use of knowledge, tangible or intangible, for the generation of technological innovation makes it expensive. Therefore, this type of innovation has previously been kept in the sphere of public policy and tax incentives.
Academic reflection on the need to promote technology innovation has reached a consensus: the interaction of university, business and government. Consequently, public policy has been built to encourage interaction through Sabato’s Triangle (as this three-way interaction is known by). It recognizes that the base of the triangle, the university-enterprise, should “greased” with government intervention. Today the most widely accepted models of science and technology policy are based on national or regional systems of innovation, and all promote the development of technological innovation through public funding.
However, the new discourse of corporate social responsibility has given legitimacy to so-called social innovation. This is a technological innovation developed for popular markets, or in crude terms, for the poor. Such innovation has broken the Sabato’s Triangle in that the vertex has been changed from governments to organizations such as foundations, NGOs or citizen innovation centers.
New models are born of technological innovation encompassed in the label of inclusive business; sustainable businesses whose base is social innovation and where the state is no longer a major player. That is, public investment in innovation is being replaced with more private investment, with more participation, more philanthropy, and new figures of intermediary actors that articulate the popular market’s needs with invention and business knowledge.
Summing up the paradox, social innovation appears to leave out government. While this statement is only true in the case of big business-oriented social value creation, what is relevant to the discussion is that it is drawing a new innovation model equally supported by the university-industry relationship but now only “greased” through the interaction of a citizenry embedded in open innovation, in co-design and co-creation.