Figure 12. Innovation process schematically, from challenge, involvement of knowledge and relational resources, to mobilization of efforts. Suggestions are assessed, choices are made and tested. Along the way, experience is fed back into the process.

The tool “creating innovation”

A network with a desire to contribute to innovation needs to be aware of activities that will contribute to innovation, both in the network and among the members of the network. It is not always easy to identify innovations. Many businesses solve problems regularly, and is solving a problem really innovation? Yes, frequently it is. Figure 12 shows an innovation process schematically.

The process starts with discovering a challenge. The person or the business may start thinking of how to solve this, and then involves other people that may have knowledge to contribute. These may be people in one’s own business or from the business network. The participants discuss and assess and choose a course of action. They develop the solution, start using it and assess the result, and then take the experience back to those who were involved in the discussions to bring the idea even further.

Such an innovative process may occur within a department, within an industry, or within a network. This activity may be part of the daily problem solving in the department or business, or it may be part of larger and more extensive pursuits. Industry-specific innovations are often new ways of doing things, which are made available to all or many businesses in the industry. Network-specific innovations are a result of interaction in the network, either through direct involvement or by ideas being shown in the network.

In connection with the P-IRIS project, the Slovenian partner presented KIKŠTARTER as a good practice (GP) for how to build an infrastructure for innovation. KIKŠTARTER is a co-working space, incubator and accelerator that also offers regular trainings and demonstrations of good practices and stimulating environment 7:

KIKŠTARTER Kamnik arose from the initiative of Youth Center Kotlovnica which together with local stakeholders and Technology park Ljubljana recognized the need to motivate and stimulate entrepreneurial ideas of young people in Kamnik. The initiative also involved Kamnik Municipality and Rudolf Maister School. Initiative was also approached by Kamnik entrepreneurs, joined in the Enterpreneurship club. The first activities were implemented in January of 2014 with first discussions, development of the co-working idea and networking activities between the municipality, the entrepreneurs, Youth Centre, High school and Ljubljana Technology Park. In 2014 KIKŠTARTER had an exchange volunteer program, where the idea was elaborated on, as well as motivation workshops targeting potential and young entrepreneurs. In 2015, they provided the physical location and enabled numerous inhabitants, entrepreneurs and talents from Kamnik to work on their business idea, have a space to work and develop as well as to network. Today KIKŠTARTER offers work space (680 m2 – 8 tables in common co-working space,13 offices 1 conference room,1 laboratory, a reading corner with professional literature, 1 Meeting Room, Block space for socializing, Lecture, Garden with outdoor co-working space) and strong community. The main innovation KIKŠTARTER did is a social innovation where they recognized the interest of many relevant stakeholders and offered them almost free platform to work at.

This GP is particularly interesting, because they understand the needs of the local population in detail. To learn the importance of bottom up approach to include all relevant stakeholders. It is transferable to other environments, as we are not talking about duplicating the prescribed solutions and patterns but about applying the proven methods and tools to understand the local potential and particular the needs and then to develop solutions based on that. The whole model of approach can be replicated in other regions, if there is a case of a small Municipality or town (local environment with strong community) that do not have the critical mass for the development of high-tech economy.

If innovation and development is an objective and theme in a network, the focus on this needs to be continuous. This involves identifying challenges that can be solved if several actors join together and developing new and better solutions. In the five networks we researched, the scope of the innovation processes varies greatly among the network participants. The two companies in the marine sector focus heavily on innovation and continuously experiment with new ways of doing things. The business network in Jostedalen is in the process of developing new products and product packages where different suppliers contribute. They have also been innovative in developing a new business to be managed jointly by the participants, a new form of organization.

With the exception of the fact that Energy Region Sogn og Fjordane is a new way of organizing businesses, the network has not yet become a place for innovation, but the individual actors previously have demonstrated an ability to innovate, and there is thus a basis for further innovative activity. IT Forum is primarily an arena for exchanging knowledge, making contacts and developing ideas, whereas further development and implementation of ideas is performed by smaller groups of members, organized in subgroups. This is a network with a long history, and it has contributed to innovations in the public sector, such as message exchanges between health care institutions, nursing care and general practitioners, as well as organized the efforts of getting broadband to the county.

Within the Fruit and Berries Network, there has been a strong focus on innovation in the past few years, and we find examples of a list of new developments, from effort factors to markets. Figure 13 shows examples of innovation in the fruit and berries industry. Most of these have been developed in collaboration between several actors. This is also reflected in the industry’s economy. Figure 14 depicts the sales increase of six major varieties of fruit and berries, compared with three other counties that are important producers. Here we can see how Sogn og Fjordane has caught up and surpassed the other fruit and berry-producing counties.

Figure 13. Examples of innovations with fruit and berries in Sogn og Fjordane.
Figure 14. Calculated sales value (NOK) of the six primary varieties of fruit and berries (apples, pears, plums, cherries, strawberries, raspberries) in the four most important counties producing fruit and berries in the country, for the period 2002–2010. Source: Developed by Stein Harald Hjeltnes based on data from SLF and GPS.

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