We are surrounded by innovations – the outcome of innovative activities. Some affect us more than others. Some are more visible than others. In reading this blog post on a computer or a portable device, you can see how this innovation has made your personal and professional life more productive (although not necessarily easier).
You might not have heard, however, about other kinds of innovations – like the eco-friendly and affordable cooking stoves that reduce exposure to toxic gases for people in Mongolia, substantially increasing their health and lowering costs. All kinds of innovations improve people’s lives from Ulaanbaatar to Washington, increasing social well-being and driving economic growth.
Governments can support innovation through the effective use of public policy. Innovation has steadily climbed its way to the top of policymakers’ agendas in recent years, in developed and developing countries alike. This is illustrated by the importance given to innovation in such strategies as the European Commission’s “Europe 2020” growth strategy, China’s 12th Five-Year Plan (2011 -2015), or Colombia’s National Development Plan (2010-2014). Yet despite the growing consensus around innovation as a driver of sustainable growth, governments face considerable difficulties in identifying, designing and implementing the best-suited policy instruments and approaches to support innovation.
Defining good policies is a walk on a tightrope. Much like the barriers that constrain innovators inside an economy, policymakers face high costs of retaining and retrieving valuable information and best practices to help define their policies. To address this issue, the World Bank – in collaboration with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) – has developed a new tool destined to enhance the capacity of policy practitioners around the world to support innovation through better policies.
The Innovation Policy Platform (IPP) is a one-of-a-kind web-based interactive space that provides easy access to open data, learning resources and opportunities for collective learning on the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of locally appropriate innovation policies. The IPP contains a wealth of practical information on a wide array of innovation-related topics, such as financing innovation, technology transfer and commercialization, and innovative entrepreneurship. The IPP is intended to enable North-South and South-South policy learning and dialogue through a wide array of case studies, policy briefs and collaborative working tools. The IPP aims to create a dynamic community of practice. It is now available to the public and can be accessed at www.innovationpolicyplatform.org.
The World Bank brings to the IPP tangible, on-the ground experience, drawn from our many experiences with our client countries, as well as from a range of projects in the field of innovation. For instance, we recently provided financial and technical assistance to develop the innovation ecosystems in countries on almost every continent. In Croatia, for example, we helped build systems not only to increase collaboration between research communities and industry, but also to commercialize research produced at universities and research institutes. In Lebanon, we are now designing and implementing a system to finance innovation and early-stage entrepreneurs.
Moreover, the World Bank is piloting new approaches to innovation policy that directly target the poorest of the poor. In Vietnam, we have launched an inclusive innovation project, which will provide pro-poor technologies in traditional herbal medicine, information and communication technology, and agriculture and aquaculture.
As these examples show, the World Bank is interested in innovation in a broad sense, aiming to advance our twin goals of eliminating extreme poverty and building shared prosperity. Our support to client countries ranges across policy for innovation systems, technology transfer and diffusion, financing and linkages, and inclusive innovation. Looking ahead at the next decade, the Bank’s engagement in the field of innovation will continue to respond to the ever-increasing needs of our client countries. We are now seeing just the early stages of the trend toward building stronger innovation-driven economies, and this trend is sure to gain momentum. The IPP will be a vital asset in helping reduce information costs, facilitating the spread of practical expertise to help policymakers draft smart innovation policies.