Innovation involves more than just technology—other types of innovation, such as social innovation, are just as important. Credit: Shutterstock

As Canada begins to understand and navigate the global post-pandemic landscape, our country’s ability to innovate will be a critical success factor in its recovery. Pandemic has seen tremendous progress in innovation. This momentum gives Canada the opportunity to build a more resilient and strong post-COVID economy.

Colleges and universities play an important role in this because they increasingly play key roles in innovation and entrepreneurship. In particular, universities are key drivers of innovation, as we saw during the pandemic when scientists played an important role in vaccine development.

How important as higher education institutions are in the innovation spacewe believe that these institutions can go wrong in three ways: to be too technology-oriented, isolated rather than collaborative, and overemphasizing the problem-solving role.

If higher education institutions are to continue to play a key role in innovation and entrepreneurship, they must transform for the better.

Techno-inclusiveness, not technocentricity

While innovation often involves technology, higher education institutions often make the mistake of overstating its importance. Higher education institutions need to consider innovation from a technology-inclusive perspective rather than a technology-centric stance.

Technocentricity refers to an overemphasis on technological innovation and startups, such as software or application design. Tech inclusiveness encourages institutions to view technological innovation and startups as one of many ventures, rather than the end of innovation.

Technocentricity distracts from the broader contribution that innovation can make. Innovation is not only the development of new algorithms, tools or inventions, but also includes emancipatory social innovations aimed at identification and elimination of social inequalitywith goals such as prosperity for all.

For example, Indigenous people have turned to social entrepreneurship to improve their own lives and the lives of those in their communities. For Indigenous innovators, making a profit should be a channel to improve social or community outcomes.

Higher education institutions can improve their own approach to innovation by enabling or expanding support and resources for non-tech ventures.

Interdisciplinary cooperation

The diversity of disciplines in faculties and departments makes postsecondary institutions unique in bringing interdisciplinary lenses to social issues. However, many institutions are structured in ways that work against interdisciplinary collaboration, resulting in policies and procedures that often lead to organizational bins.

These silos extend to innovation and entrepreneurial spaces and programs on campuses. While innovation centers have become practically standard facilities in post-secondary institutionsorganizational silos and resources often create highly politicized or competitive dynamics that can be confusing for new innovators and entrepreneurs who don’t know which hubs to partner with.

It is critical to foster collaboration with government, industry, and community partners such as non-profit organizations. Postsecondary institutions are uniquely positioned to serve as this important network connector.

Higher education institutions should stimulate and facilitate collaboration between multiple innovation and entrepreneurship centers and resources. One way this can happen is through an umbrella organizational structure that directs students and other stakeholders to the most appropriate center or resource.

In addition to solving problems

Just as the design and structuring of innovation centers often favor existing strengths, innovation itself tends to focus too much on problem solving. Postsecondary institutions are sometimes mistakenly seen as the solution to the problem the innovation gaprather than a partner and factor in creating a solid innovation ecosystem.

Innovation is not only about solving social problems, but also about better understanding those key problems and who their target audience is. A key component to understanding problems, especially complex problems, is bringing together different perspectives.

For example, addressing the fragility of the food system, which was exposed at the beginning of the pandemicrequires cooperation and coordination between different perspectives: policy makers, nutrition experts, social welfare programs, agriculture sectorsupply chain, NGOs and restaurants.

Remembering the end

Although designed with good intentionsinnovations can be unwittingly developed based on biases, leading to limited impact or, worse, unintended negative impact and further social, economic, political or psychological marginalization.

For example, innovators could assume the goal of entrepreneurship is to make a profit instead of creating value by integrating knowledge and talent with societal needs.

Regardless of the type of innovation or intent, co-designing innovations with end users it is there that universities and other institutions of higher learning are most poised to make a significant contribution. Here we use the term “end user” to describe the individuals and communities that a social innovation aims to serve.

Higher education institutions have a role to play in contributing the ideas and talent that spark innovation, but only through meaningful engagement with end users will the fires of innovation really ignite. To solve real problems that matter, innovations must be co-developed with community partners and end users.

Institutions must interact with human-centered approaches to design or thinking ensure that innovative solutions are appropriate, welcomed and impact the communities they are intended to serve.

Innovation is the future

Canada’s higher education institutions form a broad and diverse network of research and innovation that sets and disrupts trends. This was reflected in billions of dollars are spent by the higher education sector on research and development and millions of dollars the federal government invested in innovation.

While higher education institutions are poised to be on the cutting edge of pressing global issues, including climate changethey must understand it innovation it is an ongoing learning system, not a one-time assignment.

Part of constant learning is the ability to adapt effectively to emerging situations. Current supply chain problems exist not because the system is outdated, but because we have not adapted to the changing complexity of the global system. Innovation will always continue and the sector can always be improved for the benefit of all.

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Citation: How colleges and universities can get innovation wrong (and how they can get it right) (2022, October 10) Retrieved October 10, 2022, from -wrong.html

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