The world community is moving from a model of independent, lightly linked societies to a deeply interconnected global community. Innovation has always been a critical element in the relative success of societies – economically, intellectually and socially. Today, innovation is more important than ever.
Why? Because innovation plays a central role in how societies transform and adapt to the fast-changing, increasingly complex and global world. As a global community, we need to be able to take great ideas and bring them to life, quickly. We need an environment and ecosystem that can transform ideas into real solutions to real problems.
It is because innovation is so important that we signed on as a knowledge partner to support the creation of the Global Innovation Index (GII) 2011. The GII is a report that explores the transformative and economic power of innovation. Significantly, the GII explores and documents the conditions and qualities that allow innovation to thrive. It also highlights the role innovation can play in a nation’s economic and social development.
As importantly, the report provides valuable information that can be very helpful when exploring even broader questions, most notably, what is the role of innovation in addressing the great challenges that confront humanity?
We are at a pivotal time in history, and the global community is confronted with some daunting challenges. The planet is getting hotter and the climate more erratic. Cities are expanding rapidly, worsening global environmental problems and making it harder for governments to deliver basic services such as health care, public safety, education and a liveable environment. And while the world becomes more connected — there are more cell phones today than there are people — large segments of the global community remain completely cut off. They have little or no access to the worlds of commerce, communication, and information that have become so critical to the establishment of healthy, prosperous economies.
These challenges must be addressed, and it has become increasingly evident that in many cases radical solutions will be required, based on bold, creative and disruptive leaps. The global community needs new ways of collaborating, new technologies and better ways of using existing technologies.
One challenge where innovation is particularly relevant – in terms of both ideas and technologies – is rapid urbanization. Innovation is central to making cities more environmentally and economically sustainable.
This is vitally important because the issue of how we manage the growth of cities, where most of the population will live and where most of the growth is happening – is perhaps the single most important question we face as a global community. Why? Because the rapid expansion of cities is the world’s biggest driver of economic activity and the biggest contributor to global climate change as well.
This is exactly the kind of challenge that cannot be resolved by a single country, company or organization. An open innovation approach to solving problems is required, one that is based on partnerships and collaboration among industries, companies, national and regional governments, and research organizations and academia.
There are initiatives underway that are applying this model of open innovation to specific global challenges. One example is the GreenTouch™ Consortium. GreenTouch is a group that draws on the expertise of companies and organizations from all sectors of the information and communication technologies (ICT) industry and academia to dramatically reduce energy consumption in ICT networks, a significant contributor to global climate change. Together, these varied and often competing organizations are working together to pioneer the new technologies on which energy efficient networks of the future will depend. These are not merely incremental improvements, but disruptive technologies that will change the nature of networks forever.
This model, where commercial concerns and self-interest are set aside for the greater good, is applicable to the great challenges of our time, from the management of rapid urbanization and the establishment of Smart Cities to connecting the underserved populations of the world and to the establishment of a more sustainable way of life across the board.
The Global Innovation Index is laying the foundation for a global conversation of the role of innovation in addressing these challenges. By bringing together diverse parties to explore how innovation is being applied around the world, and what conditions make for successful innovation, it is making an important contribution to the promotion of open innovation as a basic operating principal for the global community.