Skills for innovation

‘Skills for innovation’ is a topic that is moving centre stage, with the widening recognition – at both business and policy levels – that the competitiveness of Europe is linked intimately to (a) the region’s innovation performance, and (b) the continuous development and renewal of the skills and competences of its citizens. There is also growing awareness of emerging ‘skills gaps’ associated with transformations in Europe’s economic, competitive and technological landscape. Many enterprises lack staff with appropriate forms and levels of skills in sufficient numbers, and this affects their productivity growth and ability to compete via innovating. In the face of growing disquiet about Europe’s lagging behind the US and Japan in terms of innovation - despite concerted efforts to reverse the trend - important questions are raised. Just what skills and competences are required to improve the innovation performance of European enterprises both in general terms and vis-à-vis their most technologically advanced competitors?

This study is an exploration of the literature, presented in the form of a ‘question and response’ guide. While it cannot provide a definitive answer to all of the key questions, it provides an insightful overview of relevant contributions to contemporary (and evolving) skills and innovation debates.

A core conclusion of the ministudy is that serious answers to important questions are still in the making. While there is a burgeoning literature in both the skills and innovation domains, little work has systematically connected these two themes. Further, the ministudy finds that the definition of skills and competences is far from uniform across European Community members. This presents serious difficulties for both rigorous analysis of (innovation) skills gaps and shortages and for the development of policy solutions withbroad applicability. The report is an attempt to open up discussion about a highly important set of questions, and hopefully will stimulate further and more detailed exploration of the link between skills and innovation and European performance and competitiveness.

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