Public sector to address societal challenges: Enhancing innovation in public services through transnational cooperation

Brussels, 28-29 October 2009

An effective public sector which delivers innovative solutions and high quality services is often considered as a pre-requisite to address Europe’s grand societal challenges (these include the ageing population, climate change, food and energy security, etc.). A better understanding of innovation in the public sector is thus liable to be very important for the development of strategies to meet these challenges. But innovation in this sector has been more often the subject of exhortation than of analysis – innovation studies have tended to concentrate on private sector innovation. Public sector innovation in consequence remains difficult to define and identify.

Within the public sector, too, many initiatives are described in terms of reform, modernisation, quality and customer service etc. Public sector innovation is sometimes seen as relating to new policies, and often to new public services; but developments linked to organisational improvements, performance management, planning, human resource management, etc., are rarely labelled as “innovation”. Terms like “modernisation” and “reform” are employed. In practice, product, process and policy innovation may well happen together – sometimes in synergistic ways, sometimes not.

The European Commission is currently preparing a new innovation action plan, which will pave the way for the EU's innovation strategy for the years ahead. The EC considers that one of the pillars of this strategy will be how innovation can address grand societal challenges. Therefore, the European Commission is currently seeking to make use of the huge potential of public services for innovation, and to help to orient this potential towards societal challenges. In pursuit of these aims, it is considering to promote a) public procurement networks, b) measurement and benchmarking of public innovation performance, and c) transnational cooperation. The latter option is the one that the workshop intends to focus upon.

IPW 5 aimed at examining if, how, and in what ways transnational cooperation supported by the EC can increase innovation in public services, (especially in relation to combating societal challenges). Transnational cooperation is one of the founding principles of Europe. Cooperation in the case of public services may help Europe be more innovative and efficient in these times of scarce resources.

This workshop specifically examined the following fields: healthcare, energy efficiency and sustainability, public sector information reuse and urban planning.


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