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UK – Innovation policy focuses too much on developing new ideas at the expense of putting those ideas into practice and is obsessed with a ‘garbage can’ model of Silicon Valley, according to Dan Breznitz.

Breznitz (Photo)professor and chair of innovation studies at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, told the Market Research Society’s Impact 2022 conference that “innovation is not not an invention”, the invention being more focused on ideas or prototypes than on bringing products to market.

“The moment we take that idea and try to put it into a market or an economy, that’s when innovation starts to happen,” Breznitz added.

Bringing an idea to market, improving it, finding new and innovative ways to produce it, combining it with other products, distributing, selling and servicing the product were, according to Breznitz, “much more important in the long run for the good -human being, growth and prosperity”.

Breznitz said the West has become obsessed with creating new Silicon Valleys, replicating a model that doesn’t work in practice and creates widespread inequality, with most other innovative cities and regions looking nothing like the economy Californian.

“The reality is that there are multiple models,” he explained. “Most places will never become Silicon Valley, nor should they aspire to become Silicon Valley. They have other options that we stopped talking about.

Covid-19 has also highlighted weaknesses in current Western thinking about the nature of innovation, according to Breznitz.

“We shipped whatever we thought wasn’t glamorous to Taiwan or China assuming it doesn’t matter as long as we have ‘the brains,’ and we’ll be fine,” he said.

“When Covid-19 hit we realized we didn’t have masks, we didn’t have ventilators and a lot of other things. We no longer know how to produce it or innovate in its production. Perhaps we need to revisit what innovation is if we care about the UK’s most prosperous.

Breznitz added that “for most people on earth, each different model of innovation and each different stage means a different distribution of the fruits of success”, and decisions should be made locally about which industries are right for each city and region. .

This means government intervention. “Without government, there is no innovation,” Breznitz said. “You have to have an intervention. We can talk about how deep we go.

Breznitz said government intervention could be as simple as regulation or involve comprehensive industrial policy. It could also consider the government as a junior partner supporting local innovation.

“Government can also be a tool or a partner – it doesn’t need to be a leader in this transformation,” he concluded. “The transformation can come from other actors within the community who then recruit and convince the government to do the right thing.”