The European Commission is currently developing a new Innovation Plan for Europe, which is expected to be proposed for spring 2010. As part of this work, the Commission is looking into new ways of fostering innovation in Europe.
The ways in which public and private players are trying to foster innovation are constantly being adapted as a response to developments in our understanding of innovation and of its drivers. An approach that has increasingly gained ground in recent years is the concept of the "innovation lab". The innovation lab is not a well defined phenomenon. There is great variation from one lab to another, and what is sometimes called a lab somewhere may be labelled differently elsewhere. Some traits do however seem to be common to many innovation labs, notably:
- The active involvement of users at all stages of development (co-creation);
- Multiple partners from private and public sectors;
- Bringing together different disciplines and approaches from design, science, technology and business;
- A dedicated space (real or virtual) for experimentation and developing new ideas.
Multi-disciplinary collaboration and user involvement are increasingly important to successfully concretise creative ideas and to bring innovation to the market and to society at large. Experimentation, visualisation and co-creation increase the likelihood of succeeding with the market introduction of a new product or service, or with the implementation of an innovation project. The importance of innovation labs has been highlighted by a Business Panel set up by DG Enterprise and Industry to propose new ideas for future EU innovation policy.
Against this background, the European Commission is currently looking into the question of whether such labs, their creation and development, should be fostered at European level and - if so - how.