Published on Eurasian Perspectives

Imagination Meets Innovation

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Matthew Karnitsching, Chief Europe Correspondent, Politico; Nicholas Haan, Vice President of Impact and Faculty Chair of Global Grand Challenges, Singularity University; Vazil Hudak, Vice President, European Investment Bank; and Cyril Muller, Vice President for the Europe and Central Asia region at the World Bank participate in the Regional Innovation Forum on March 22, 2018. 

In 2005, Wayne Fromm, a Canadian inventor, filed for US patent # 7,684,694. Today, Fromm’s invention is known around the globe as a ‘selfie stick.’  Although this invention is now synonymous with cellphones, it had its film debut nearly fifty years ago, as a prop in a 1969  sci-fi film called “ I killed Einstein, Gentlemen.”

In this case, it took almost five decades for technology to finally meet people’s imagination. In the same 1960s, expectations were that flying cars would be the norm by 2000. In 2000, these expectations had not materialized and flying cars seemed again the domain of science-fiction. Yet, today they are becoming reality.

We may be at the crossroads between linear thinking and exponential technological change.

Innovation and disruptive technology are extraordinary opportunities for accelerating economic growth, but they are also a source of anxiety for governments, firms, and people. There is ample evidence that innovation and the adoption of existing technologies accelerate economic growth. The recent World Bank report “ The Innovation Paradox” highlights two failures that undermine the impact of innovation and technology adoption.

First, most firms in developing countries are slow to identify and adapt to higher-level technologies and thus fail to accrue the high returns that technology upgrades and innovation can bring. Second, governments find it challenging to develop innovation policies that effectively facilitate the process of technological catch-up.

With this paradox in mind, the World Bank, the European Investment Bank, and the Governments of Slovakia and Austria are hosting the first Regional Innovation Forum for Europe and Central Asia in Bratislava (March 22-24, 2018). The Forum brings government representatives, researchers, entrepreneurs, and IFIs together to identify the innovation and technology challenges facing the Europe and Central Asia (ECA) region, to translate uncertainty into opportunity and to learn from regional and global experiences.

This Forum will help shape how World Bank programs in Europe and Central Asia will support governments and firms to seize the opportunities brought by innovation and technology. From skills development and jobs, to technology regulation and smart government, to improving management practices and technology adoption by firms, to future-proof sectoral strategies, the challenge for the World Bank Group and other IFIs will be to support this ecosystem that will foster innovation, opportunities, and shared prosperity.

Video: Cyril Muller speaks about the Regional Innovation Fourm in Bratislava, Slovakia


Cyril Muller

Former Vice President, Europe and Central Asia

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