Innovations must include more than technological perspective

Social and technological innovations are complementary, writes Anke Hassel in the Handelsblatt.

The focus of technological innovations should be on social needs, Hertie School Professor of Public Policy Anke Hassel writes in an op-ed for the Handelsblatt. As the German government looks for ways to strengthen the innovation culture, one detail is often overlooked: the “innovation ecosystem” does not merely consist of technology, Hassel argues. Instead, social needs must be taken into account as well.

“Technological and social innovations can only be seen as complementary,” she writes. “To solve societal problems, technology has to be used in exactly the same way as it is in industry. At the same time, social needs must also be the focus of technological innovations.”

Other countries in Europe have recognised this issue and reacted accordingly, she writes. The high-tech strategy in Germany has added social innovation to its agenda, but there is no strategic approach on how to properly deal with this, including how to measure success or who to involve in the selection of projects.

“There should also be a coordination office with its own expertise, budget and authority to develop a framework for the government for the integration of social, political and technological innovations,” Hassel says. “Germany is not lacking in ideas, but political will and an institutional framework that advances the culture of innovation.”

Hassel is also a member of the government’s High-Tech Forum, a 21-member advisory council made up of experts from academia, business and society. It offers insights to the Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) on how to more effectively and quickly harness opportunities offered by new technologies.

Read Anke Hassel's full opinion piece from 2 February in the Handelsblatt (in German).