Few words about Innovation with Mr Bror Salmelin


Bror Salmelin, Policy Advisor to the Director of the European Commission

Graduated from Helsinki University of Technology with majors in Control and Systems Engineering, Electronics and Measurement Technology,1978.

Work career:
Assistant at Helsinki University of Technology 1979-1984.
Worked at TEKES (a Finnish agency co-ordinating industrial RTD) 1984 with management positions e.g. in Manufacturing, Industrial Automation and Electronics. 1994 onwards the Deputy of the Information Technology Section.
Finnish representative at Information Technology Committee of the IST programme. One of creators of the global IMS (Intelligent Manufacturing Systems) initiative from 1990, and during the Feasibility Study phase chaired the EFTA delegation.
Technology Attaché/ Vice Consul for TEKES in Los Angeles 1997-1998 establishing research and business contacts in ICT.
Works in European Commission; since 1998 as Head of Unit in various units (Integration in Manufacturing, Electronic Commerce and New Working Environments). In this context developed concept of European Network of Living Labs, which is grown through EU presidencies to 150+ sites innovation network for ICT intense services.
Since 2007 Policy Advisor for the Director in ICT addressing Societal Challenges (2011 onwards adviser for the Directorate-General). Responsible for innovation and take-up, and real world settings fostering innovation, Living Labs. Runs a senior industrial group “Open Innovation Strategy and Policy Group” with leading industries.
Member of New Club of Paris. Member of the Advisory Board for Innovation Value Institute, Ireland.
Expertise in intangible economy and value creation, related to policies like innovation policy, productivity and creativity.

Focused now on new service innovation.



1. Why is innovation so popular today?

BS: Innovation is a popular word, as countries and regions realize that they need to have a new approach to sustainable societal and economical growth. It is as word having inflation, as there is very little new taken on board from new innovation research, especially regarding knowledge intense sectors and knowledge society. We must see that innovation involves courage to take steps in new directions, and especially not now only to intensify the “old”.  Innovation is DOING things.


2. External or Internal innovation? What is your choice and why?

BS: Both. One does not exclude another. When seeing sources of innovation one can see that most of business ideas come from outside, or interactions with colleagues, clients etc. But we need to keep internally strong knowledge and cross-fertilization across areas to be able to identify and use the external. Internal knowledge and networking also is important to produce value for externals. It is to create a mutual win-win situation based on open collaborative approaches (crowds and co-creation).


3. What is more relevant by your opinion: Incremental or Breakthrough innovation for overall country and business growth?

BS: Incremental development is incremental, and as such necessary to improve things. But, at the end the real breakthroughs come with paradigm, behavioural changes. Hence it is important to create those kind of experimental environments to test new approaches, with controlled risk. New approaches might be technologies, behavioural models, societal behaviour and of course business models too. Experimentation in real world settings increase probability of success and increase scalability to different environments as well.


4. Name three things that makes innovation successful?


1.That it is an innovation, not invention only.

2.That innovation happens with cross-fertilisation across all actors, often in real world taking the societal and technical innovation together, to lead to service or business innovation

3.That in the process there is courage to do the unusual


5. Is Europe good ground for social innovation?

BS: Our main asset is highly skilled, multicultural and demanding population, strong societal values and also societal security. Based on this we need to develop such innovation processes fro co-creation of services for the citizens that this unique strength of Europe is an asset. This “most advanced users” is also true for business services. Hence, combining societal, business and economical aspects with technology innovation makes us competitive.


6. What are living labs? Why are they important?

BS: See www.openlivinglabs.eu and www.openinnovation-platform.eu. When the concept of Living Labs was developed in my unit together with the stakeholder roughly ten years ago, the critical issue was how to make Europe attractive for innovation, how to attract intellectual and financial capital for innovation in regions. This brought the key idea of co-creativity an PPPP (Public Private People Partnership) as leading principles. Living labs are now a network of European (and beyond) sites for doing innovation based on user-centricity, and out in the real world, having the users continuously participating in the process. This is very much also the fundament for our European view of open innovation. One could say Open Innovation 2.0. Living Labs as concept are important building blocks enabling the creation of real-world environments and open platforms for testing and developing innovative (service) ideas in scalable environments.


7. What is Creative commons? What tools are applied?

BS: Creative commons is one of the licensing formats enabling building and sharing open communities and services. Strong IPR is necessary to keep the platforms open, likewise strong common approach to architectures on functional level. Creative commons is one way of capitalising and developing the societal capital in open innovation ecosystems.


8. Digital agenda of Europe – can faster Internet, Cloud and Web 2.0  technology bring greater innovation results and growth?

BS: Per se these technologies are critical enablers for the true paradigm shift. Co-creativity and crowdsourcing require in practise high performing infrastructure. More important for open innovation however is to create proper open platforms for innovation, also taking legal (e.g. IPR, privacy, trust) issues on board, catalysing for sharing.


9. Why EU doesn’t  use Cloud services and build its own social innovation network?

BS: The EU strategy for cloud services is developing. Interoperability, data security, transferability, privacy issues are examples which need to be also adequately addressed, and it is affecting the whole cloud architecture and governance issues. We are using available social networking tools to gain experience, but also actively engage the stakeholders to our actions.


10. When do you think Innovation union will be reality?

BS: The Innovation Union is part of the EU 2020 programme. We will prototype the tools with e.g. Active and Healthy Ageing (AHA), followed by others. These are integrated actions delivering results on regional, national and EU level, combining short and longer term activities. The idea is really to increase the demand-side innovation dimension to the research and development policies and actions. Innovation Union is a reality when the actors get together, and learn to build on sharing and trust across the whole innovation process.


11.What do you predict will be future of innovation and what trends can we expect?

BS: User-centricity, co-creation and citizen involvement will be increasingly important. ICT enables new forms of collaboration of value communities, where the role of the public sector is really to ensure the mash-up of the different skills and drivers for innovation, in real world environments. On the other hand the role of the public sector is also to invest in the new seed of ideas, nurturing them to be harvested.

I wish I had a crystal ball..


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