New Membership: GCCIR joins IraSME and attends BMWi’s Innovation Day in Berlin

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Main stage at Innovation Day, photo by: Katelyn Petersen
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GCCIR Manager Katelyn Petersen testing a VR training module for hip replacement surgery, photo by: Jonas Kuhn

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In light of the new Alberta-Europe Technology Collaboration Fund established by the Alberta Ministry of Economic Development and Trade (EDT) and the German-Canadian Centre for Innovation and Research (GCCIR), the GCCIR has joined the IraSME network.

IraSME is a network of ministries and funding agencies, which offer national and regional funding programs for cooperative research projects between small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The network supports SMEs in their transnational innovation activities, and helps them access technological expertise, extend their own networks and bridge the gap between research and innovation.

Twice a year, IraSME issues calls for proposals for transnational cooperative research projects between SMEs and research and technology organizations (RTOs), with the objective of developing innovative products, processes and/or services in technological fields. The calls follow a bottom-up approach, meaning research topics are not pre-defined and are open to all technology sectors. Funding for collaboration projects is made available through national and regional funding programs administered by the respective ministry or funding agency participating in the IraSME network.

The IraSME membership provides the GCCIR with a unique tool to administer the Alberta-Europe Technology Collaboration Fund in Alberta, and to advise on respective funding agencies partnering companies could potentially apply to. The network will also benefit GCCIR in future matchmaking missions to Europe; missions the GCCIR offers to Albertan SMEs looking to find international collaboration partners.

Read the latest IraSME Newsletter containing the announcement of GCCIR’s membership here.

The official announcement of GCCIR’s membership in the IraSME network took place at Innovation Day, on June 7, 2018, in Berlin. It was an honor for GCCIR Manager Katelyn Petersen and Senior Project Coordinator Jonas Kuhn to travel to Germany and attend Innovation Day for this special occasion.

Also celebrating ZIM’s 10 years anniversary, this year’s Innovation Day had exceptional significance. With more than 300 companies and research institutes presenting a variety of innovations developed with the support of the German Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi), and more than 2000 visitors and attendees, it was a particularly exciting and productive showcase of technology development and international coopertation.


Links:

https://irasme-cornet-berlin-2018.b2match.io/page-1561

https://www.zim.de/ZIM/Navigation/DE/Infothek/Veranstaltungen/veranstaltungen.html

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GCCIR at Global Petroleum Show 2018: Minister Hon. Deron Bilous highlights impact of international R&D collaborations between SMEs

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In the picture from left to right: Vladimir Mravcak (Chairman, Atlantis Research Labs), Hon. Deron Bilous (Minister of Economic Development and Trade), Dr. Andreas Sichert (CEO, Orcan Energy AG), and Markus Lintl (Head of Industry & New Business, Orcan Energy AG)

This month the GCCIR attended one of the biggest shows around technologies in the oil and gas sector, the Global Petroleum Show, in Calagry. Also attending were Orcan Energy AG from Germany and Atlantis Research Labs Inc. from Alberta. The two SMEs have recently entered into an innovative R&D collaboration. To learn about this new collaboration project and highlight the impact that the Albert government’s R&D funding programs have, Hon. Deron Bilous, Minister of Economic Development and Trade (EDT), stopped by the Orcan Energy AG and Atlantis Research Labs Inc.’s booths at the Global Petroleum Show.

The collaboration project Orcan Energy AG and Atlantis Research Labs Inc. have entered into is funded through the Alberta-Europe Technology Collaboration Fund, a program created by EDT and administered by the German-Canadian Centre for Innovation and Research (GCCIR) to support Albertan companies, foster economic growth in Alberta, and encourage international knowledge transfer between Alberta and Europe.

Interview with Dr. Chad Bousman

PRECISION MEDICINE

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Dr. Chad Bousman is Assistant Professor at the Department of Medical Genetics, Psychiatry, and Philosophy & Pharmacology at the University of Calgary and a member of the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute. The broad vision of his research is to discover, develop, and evaluate genomic-based tools with the utility to guide clinical decision-making and improve mental health outcomes. His primary focus is on optimizing the selection and dosing of drug therapies used to treat depression and schizophrenia. Dr. Bousman is also actively involved in the research examining the interactive effect genes and environments have on the brains of those with mental health problems.

1) You work at the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute at the University of Calgary. Can you tell us about the organization and if precision medicine already plays a big role there?

 The Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute (ACHRI) supports excellence in research, innovation and knowledge translation to improve the health and well-being of children from pre-conception to adulthood.  A multi-disciplinary institute of the University of Calgary, Alberta Health Services and the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation, the institute creates new knowledge to change practice and shape policy in ways that improve child health outcomes.

Precision medicine is medical care designed to optimize efficiency or therapeutic benefit for particular groups of patients, especially by using genetic or molecular profiling. The institute pursues precision medicine by assisting in the diagnosis of children with rare diseases and enabling individually-focused treatments, including pharmacogenomics where my lab sits. The importance of this research cannot be overstated. One in four children admitted to the Alberta Children’s Hospital is a patient with a hereditary illness. (i.e. arthritis, cystic fibrosis, sickle cell) The Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute is one of a few institutes in Canada which can provide rapid genetic testing of rare illnesses to provide meaningful answers to families and clinicians. We have been designated by the University of Calgary as the Centre for Health Genomics and Bioinformatics.  Our researchers can also provide experimental gene therapy for some specific disorders by engineering viruses that carry corrected proteins and reintroduce these cells into the patient through a bone marrow transplant.

More information about ACHRI can be found at: www.research4kids.ucalgary.ca

2) You focus on optimizing drug therapy to treat mental illnesses, especially depression and schizophrenia. Are there big differences using precision medicine in psychiatric care in comparison to other medical disciplines?  

Precision medicine encompasses a number of strategies for optimizing medical care and these strategies can differ across medical disciplines. The precision medicine strategy that my research focuses on is pharmacogenetics. Pharmacogenetics uses a person’s genetic information to assist doctors in the selection and dosing of medications. There is substantial overlap in how pharmacogenetics is used in psychiatric care and other medical disciplines. However, disciplines such as psychiatry, neurology, oncology, and cardiology are furthest along in the implementation of pharmacogenetics into clinical practice.

3) The costs of precision medicine seem to be higher than those of more traditional treatments. Is precision medicine also a question of money?

Costs are certainly a key concern when it comes to precision medicine but it is important to differentiate between short-term costs and long-term costs. In the short-term, the costs of delivering precision medicine is often higher than traditional treatment approaches because precision medicine is typically associated with the introduction of new technology or additional testing. However, clinical trials are now demonstrating that these upfront costs are off-set by the long-term cost-savings that precision medicine provides. For example, the cost of ordering a pharmacogenetic test prior to prescribing an antidepressant can range from $100-$500, a significant upfront cost relative to standard prescribing practice. However, this testing can assist doctors in selecting an antidepressant that has a higher probability of working for a particular individual, ultimately saving >$3,500 in direct medical costs over the person’s life.

4) If you compare the use of precision medicine worldwide how well is Canada doing?

The clinical use of precision medicine remains limited around the world. However, Canada along with a number of other countries are at the forefront of the precision medicine revolution. As with any new and bold initiative, precision medicine’s successes in Canada will depend heavily on the resources made available for research and implementation projects.

 5) What are the main challenges for precision medicine in the future?

Precision medicine is still early in its evolution and will require local and global collaborations to facilitate its transition into routine care. I think one of the biggest challenges will be redesigning healthcare systems to enable seamless integration of precision medicine into practice. This redesign will include education of healthcare providers and consumers on the use and limitations of precision medicine innovations, improvement of electronic health records, and the development of new treatment and prevention guidelines that are aligned with the precision medicine era.

Interview with Prof. Dr. Dietmar Kennepohl

ONLINE EDUCATION

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Dr. Dietmar Kennepohl is Professor of Chemistry and former Accosiate VP Acedemic at Athabasca University, a leading Canadian university offering online courses and degree programs through distance education. He graduated Summa Cum Laude from McMaster University with a B.Sc. (Honours) degree in chemistry in 1984 and continued directly to his doctoral studies in main group synthetic chemistry at the University of Alberta, where he obtained a Ph.D. in 1990. He became an Alexander von Humboldt Fellow at Georg-August-Universität Göttingen in Germany, where he investigated Te-N and Mn-N chemistry and later returned to Canada to design molecular metals as a post-doctoral fellow with a research group at the University of Guelph. Dr. Kennepohl is also the Past President of the Humboldt Association of Canada and current Director of the Humboldt Foundation Liaison Office in Canada, as well as Secretary on the GCCIR Board. He is a well-published science researcher and has a strong commitment to online teaching.

1) You are a professor of chemistry at Athabasca University and you have written the book “Teaching science online”.  Can you tell us more about teaching online?

The emergence of new technologies and their promise of better instructional facilitation are not new to educators and so learning online provides both new opportunities and challenges. My university is unusual as it is 100% online and at a distance. That flexibility together with our open approach is part of a strong social mandate to provide access to quality university education. A much more common scenario would be traditional campus-based institutions blending online and face-to-face modes of teaching. In either situation in a world of ubiquitous knowledge the appeal of online learning is about convenience and supporting a more independent learner. Teaching and learning online opens the door to some interesting opportunities.

2) Do you see differences in teaching sciences online in comparison to other subjects?

Very much so. Every discipline and sub-discipline has its own particular epistemology, language, culture, and its own way of doing things. Students are not merely learning facts and concepts, they usually undergo an apprenticeship within their discipline. However, the approach to teaching and learning in the science disciplines also tries to reflect scientific methodology or process. That is, students are expected to state a problem, ask questions, make observations, keep records, offer explanations, create a design or carry out an experiment, and communicate findings with others. The vehicle to learning is problem solving and scientific inquiry, and this forms the model for navigating and dealing with hypotheses, facts, laws, and theories. It is therefore not surprising that the practical components are at the heart of most science programs—yet this practical component is incredibly challenging to do properly online and at a distance.

3) What are the key elements of successful online education?

Essentially good teaching is good teaching. There are basic practices and principles for creating a learning environment that will lead to student success. Of course some of these are particular to the online mode including selecting appropriate technology, providing technical support and training, exploiting open educational resources, or taking a team approach when developing and delivering courses to name a few. However, many of the more important principles are applicable to any mode of teaching such as engaging the learner early, focusing on concepts rather than content, avoiding cognitive overload, providing timely feedback, and so on.

4) When did you start to use online teaching methods and can you give us some examples of the ways you teach certain material to your students online?

The initial Athabasca University model was independent study courses with print-based material and telephone tutor support. As newer technologies became available, they were experimented with and, if found useful, adopted. Assignments originally sent through the postal system can now be submitted electronically. In the mid 90s my chemistry courses were hybrid—having both print and online components. It was not until this past decade that AU has truly moved online. This was precipitated by a number of system-wide changes across the entire university including adopting a standard learning management system to house courses (including electronic versions of all AU learning materials), the preference of both students and teachers to move away from telephone communications, the move towards e-textbooks and/or OER textbooks to replace commercial print materials, and finally the integration of a student relationship management system.

So, for example, my organic chemistry students work through their course online. Each section has clearly stated learning objectives with online activities including readings where they are linked to a ‘textbook’ which is an online wiki. Assignments are done and submitted electronically. They do attend face-to-face supervised laboratories. However, some components of the laboratory (pre-lab work, spectroscopy simulations, etc.) are done online. We are now even experimenting with having students analyzing products made in the laboratory by remote access to instrumentation.

5) How do you see the future of online education?

There are several exciting developments on the horizon for online learning and I’ll mention only a couple. The most obvious being new technologies that allow connectivity to both content and people. One subset of this has been the emergence of mobile devices and the entire area of mobile learning. Science educators (especially those doing field work) have been looking at this to facilitate online learning in the field. With handheld GPS-enabled mobile devices one is not limited by classroom walls and can readily do self-guided field work and in situ learning. Another area of interest is big data and learning analytics. Once a course and learner activities are digital they are also trackable. One can take that information to tailor courses to individuals and their learning styles. Finally, open educational resources has a big role in the future of learning online. Collaboration, sharing, reusing and adapting content is an emerging trend that will have a profound effect on quality of learning. Together online education will not only become even more flexible and accessible, but will also rise in quality and personalization.

6) Do you see signs that the already existing online universities could replace the classical ones?

I do not think so. A few years ago this same question was asked surrounding the hype on MOOCs (massive open online courses). Apparently MOOCs would shake the very foundations of higher education to the ground, and by 2060 there would only be 10 universities in the world. I do not believe that this is happening at all. Certainly the online learning environment will be used more to supplement existing universities and will dramatically increase capacity of and access to higher education worldwide. Still, there are other social interactions and learning opportunities classic on-campus universities provide that will continue to be valued and sought after.

There is another final thought. The initial concern with MOOCS was also that were meant to cut labour costs by replacing faculty, but I think the bigger and better discussion is around the role of the teacher itself. In a world of ubiquitous knowledge, what added value do we provide as educators? Indeed, online education is forcing this question on an entire generation of teachers and may end up being one of its biggest contributions to learning.

Interview with Dr. Alexandra Latnikova

MICROENCAPSULATION

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My name is Alexandra Latnikova and I work at the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research in the Microencapsulation and Particle Applications Group. I became interested in microencapsulation about 10 years ago when I moved from Russia to Germany and started my PhD thesis devoted to the development of smart anticorrosion coatings containing micro- and nanocapsules.

As soon as the PhD thesis was finished I started to look for ways to apply the knowledge I had acquired and make it more broadly useful. Fraunhofer struck me as a very interesting organization to work with, since it is the place where the world of ideas (science and creativity) overlaps with the material world (business, implementation and product development) on an everyday basis, which I found and still find very stimulating and inspiring. I believe that perceiving both worlds simultaneously helps me to gain an integral knowledge about how the universe functions and to understand what my own place in it can be.

1) Can you tell us more about the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research? What are the goals of the organization?

Fraunhofer is the largest application-oriented research organization in Europe. Our Institute’s website states that: “Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research (IAP) specializes in researching and developing polymer applications. It supports companies and partners in the customized development and optimization of innovative and sustainable materials, processing aids and processes. In addition to characterizing polymers, the institute also produces and processes polymers in an environmentally-friendly and cost-effective way on a laboratory and pilot plant scale.” I personally would formulate the main goal of the organization as bringing up-to-date polymer science to serve the current needs of society. These needs are identified through communication and collaboration with local and international companies active in relevant brunches of industry, as well as through ongoing dialogue with  local government and through monitoring  emerging trends around the globe.

Based on these inputs we decide at which level our engagement is the most reasonable. For example, companies often contact us because they have a problem that they cannot solve alone due to a lack of time, knowledge, or equipment. In this case, our role is to find a customized solution as quickly and effectively as possible (on a several months scale) using the portfolio of the whole institute (a network of approximately 200 scientists with a very broad range of backgrounds). In some cases short-term solutions are not possible, and in this case we prefer to engage in longer-term publicly-funded research projects (several years scale) and develop strategies and solutions together with our partners. Combining both strategies gives us an opportunity to be aware of the current needs, as well as to keep our know-how up-to-date.

The institute is divided into divisions, which consider various aspects and application fields of polymer chemistry, polymer physics and polymer biology. More information about the structure of the institute can be found here: https://www.iap.fraunhofer.de/en/about_us/Overview.html

2) Your recent research projects are in the field of microencapsulation and particle applications. Can you tell what this is it about (e.g. goals, scope, duration of the projects, expected outcome…) and how it can be applied in different fields?

“Microencapsulation and particle applications” is the name of our working group, which belongs to the division of Synthesis and Polymer Technology. This group started its first microencapsulation activities about 30 years ago. Since then the group members have been screening, evaluating, selecting, developing, refining and tailoring the whole available spectrum of microencapsulation technologies and approaches presented in the academic and patent literature in order to be able to offer the technologies with the best possible output.

Microencapsulation is the generic term for numerous technologies, which are often utilized when the release rate of a certain functional substance in a medium has to be controlled and/or contact between the active substance and the medium has to be prevented (for example if the substance reacts with other components or with the environment). This is achieved by wrapping the tiny particles or droplets of the functional substance (capsule core) with a thin layer of another material (capsule shell). The permeability of the shell determines whether, how fast and under which conditions the active material will be released.

Most of the processes used for the production of microcapsules are self-assembly processes, which means that we are able to produce very complex micro-structured materials in a few synthesis steps using broadly available equipment with very high precision and in large  quantities. To produce our capsules we use commercially available synthetic and natural polymers and building blocks in order to shorten the path to commercialization. The processes used for the microencapsulation are very diverse and include emulsion-based, as well as spraying and dripping technologies.

We intentionally do not prioritize any application direction, since we believe that an interdisciplinary approach is best at this point. It allows us to keep a good overview of available technologies, combining them and getting inspiration for the development of new ones. For example, we produced microcapsules containing:

– Perfumes for personal care applications, which release smell over months and/or repel insects

– Catalysts, which can be released at a chosen temperature to activate a glue or sealant

– Plastic additives, which can be more homogeneously distributed in the polymer matrix

– Probiotic bacteria, which should survive  passage through the stomach

– Phase change materials, which store thermal energy and release it over night

– Photochromic pigments, which migrate in a polymer matrix and deactivate if not encapsulated

– Microelements, which must be released in a specific part of the digestive system

3) Do you have other research projects in the field of microencapsulation ongoing or recently finished? What were they about? Which projects were successfully implemented on the market?

Currently, one of our projects is devoted to the microencapsulation of a biocide. The goal of the project is to encapsulate the biocide in such way that it would be released from an architectural coating 5 times slower than if it were not encapsulated. This allows us to either prolong the lifetime of the coating substantially (for example, a five year guarantee instead of two years), or to reduce the amount of the biocide in the coating (sometimes several times) without changing the antifouling performance. This is possible because the amount of biocide actually added to the paint is much higher than necessary for the protection from microorganisms. The problem is that the biocide molecules are very mobile and leak out of the coating after two years. When released into the environment at high concentrations, biocides can harm other organisms, which were not initially targeted. Thus, microencapsulation allows us to improve the quality of the product, while simultaneously saving money and protecting the environment. The same principle is applied for ship antifouling coatings, as well as for pesticides and fertilizers used in agriculture.

4) In which field(s) do you foresee microencapsulation having the biggest impact and why?

We think that, in the short term, microencapsulation will mainly impact those application fields that rely on utilization of functional substances in low concentrations or where the concentration of the functional substance must be carefully controlled. These include all the application fields for biocides, pesticides, fertilizers and, of course, medical applications (drug delivery). We believe that these applications also have the highest social impact and can be implemented on the market more successfully than some others, because they simply have higher priority at the moment.

Over the long term, we expect microencapsulation to eventually penetrate every field of life, since it allows for fabrication of materials with very defined and complex microstructures. Microstructuring, in turn, opens the door to so called smart, responsive and programmable materials, which are able to sense and react to the environment autonomously.

 

5) What are the main challenges encountered when conducting microencapsulation experiments?

One of the main scientific challenges is tailoring  microencapsulation processes to athe particular functional substance. When we initially develop a technology in the lab, we test it with several model substances to see if it can be used for substances with various properties. Often, when we change the model substance, we have to change the whole recipe, since self-assembly processes are very sensitive to  minor changes in the environment. We need to have a very deep understanding of the processes on the molecular level, as well as trust our scientific intuition, in order to succeed in this task.

Another challenge is when we want to keep the process going the same way and keep the final quality of the product, but to change the building blocks. For example, at the moment many companies are interested in making their microcapsules biodegradable without changing their performance. This is a very interesting challenge, which will have a huge social impact and hopefully help to protect our environment from plastic accumulation. Therefore, we accept this challenge gladly and are trying our best to solve it.

Another common challenge is to find a holistic solution, which combines the most reasonable process, the best-performing encapsulating material, and the lowest possible price simultaneously. It is not always possible to solve this puzzle, but whenever we succeed, the  path to commercializing the product becomes considerably shorter.

 

GCCIR attends Tecterra conference: NORTH51

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In February, two colleagues of the GCCIR team attended Tecterra’s new event NORTH 51. Tecterra is a government-funded non-profit organization that assists start-ups, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the geospatial field, to develop and commercialize technology faster than they could on their own.

NORTH51 was their first conference to focus on newly emerging technologies and trends in the field and to gather the most innovative minds in geospatial technology. The plan is to establish NORTH51 as an annual conference that fosters exchange between technology leaders in the field. Speaking of geospatial technology, the conference was held in the heart of the Rocky Mountains and included informative presentations as well as specific panel discussions on various topics ranging from remote sensing and location analytics to IOT and the relevance of AI in the analysis of geospatial data sets.

For GCCIR the event provided a great opportunity to not only get a better insight into new geospatial technology and innovative research and development that is happening in the field. We also used the opportunity to connect with experts, professors, and company representatives of small to medium-sized enterprises as well as bigger companies specializing in the geospatial sector and hope that some of the companies will be able to join us for our European Matchmaking Mission in November 2018.

Interview with Prof. Dr. Jürgen Howaldt

SOCIAL INNOVATION

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Prof. Dr. Jürgen Howaldt, born 1960, is the Director of the Central Scientific Institute, Technical University of Dortmund and Scientific coordinator of the global research project SI DRIVE funded within the 7th Framework Programme of the European Commission. He is an internationally renowned expert in the field of social innovation. As a consultant he has not only presented his concept of social innovation to policy makers in Germany and Europe but in plenty of other parts of the world. Howaldt is Co-founder of the European School of Social Innovation and an Expert of the German Federal Chancellor’s Dialog for the Future.

(1) What is your definition of social innovation and what is your main research field?

The term social innovation can be traced back to the early 19th century, long before technological-economic connotations determined the common understanding of innovation. But at the same time the global mapping of the SI DRIVE project revealed that there is no shared understanding of social innovation (including a clear differentiation from other concepts such as social entrepreneurship or technological innovation).

Taking its cue from Schumpeters basic definition of innovation, we see social innovation as a new combination of social practices. What distinguishes social innovations from other manifestations of social change is that they are driven by certain actors in an intentional targeted manner with the goal of better satisfying or answering needs and problems than is possible on the basis of established practices. An innovation is therefore social to the extent that it is accepted and diffused in society or certain societal sub-areas and ultimately becomes institutionalized as new social practice. Just like any innovation social innovation does not necessarily provide impact that is ‘good’ for all or ‘socially desirable’ in an extensive and normative sense.

(2) Do you think social innovation gets enough public attention? If not, what would you like to see change? Why do you think social innovation is playing such an important role for our society?

The importance of social innovation for successfully addressing the social, economic, political and environmental challenges of the 21st century has been recognised not only within the Europe 2020 Strategy but also on a global scale. There is a growing consensus among practitioners, policy makers and the research community that technological innovations alone are not capable of overcoming the social and economic challenges modern societies are facing. The global mapping of social innovation initiatives uncovers countless approaches and successful initiatives that illustrate the strengths and potentials of social innovations in the manifold areas of social integration through education and poverty reduction, in establishing sustainable patterns of consumption, or in coping with demographic change. At the same time, social innovations are gaining in importance not only in relation to social integration and equal opportunities, but also in respect of the innovative ability and future sustainability of society as a whole.

(3) Do you think technological innovation is directly linked to social innovation and why?

Even we think it is necessary to distinguish social innovation from technological innovation analytically in practice they are closely interlinked and support each other. The global  mapping revealed that while in many social innovation initiatives technologies do not play an important role (e.g. integrated care; income support, reduction of educational disadvantages) in others technology is essential (E/M Health; Energy Supply etc.). Even though in different practice fields and social innovation initiatives the role of technology varies greatly, the possibility to take advantage of new technologies for tackling social problems often motivates or triggers action.

Overall new – but also the re-use of old and basic – technologies may offer new opportunities for social innovation. Technology can be an enabler, an instrument, a supporter, a form of substantiated knowledge, and a prerequisite for diffusion. Especially the potential of social media and mobile technologies happen to drive social innovations. In this regard novelties in technology can be a crucial to spark off new social practices. Yet looking at the same issue from the other side, in many cases new technologies are made viable and effective by the implementation of cooperative practices shaped by participating collectives.

This underlines the enormous relevance of social innovations concerning effective measures (including the application and utilisation of new technologies) to cope with, e.g., climate change: Policies for energy management (less energy consumption and more efficient energy supply) rely on technologies. However, their deployment will hardly be feasible and effectual if practices (behavior, norms, values) were to remain invariant. Further innovations in technology and business are imperative; yet in order to reap their full potential, and at the same time creating social development that is beneficial to cultures as inclusive as diverse, social innovations will make the difference.

(4) What are the main challenges for implementing social innovations?

The SI.DRIVE project provides for the first time an evidence based overview of various types of social innovation in different world regions and central policy areas (education, employment, environment and climate change, energy supply, transport and mobility, health and social care, and poverty reduction and sustainable development). The results reflect the diversity, broadness and usability of Social Innovation, proving the variety of actors and their interaction and exploring the systemic character and concept of social innovation.

Like technological innovations successful social innovations are based on a lot of presuppositions and require appropriate infrastructures and resources. Moreover, social innovations require specific conditions because they aim at activating, fostering and utilizing the innovation potential of the whole society. Therefore, new ways of developing and diffusing social innovations (e.g. design thinking, innovation labs etc.) as well as additional far reaching resources are necessary to unlock the potential of social innovation in society and to enable participation of the relevant actors and civil society.

There is an increasing awareness and promotion of social innovation: In many countries, the promotion of social innovation itself by the EU has served as a driver and opportunity for various actors to embrace new ways of working, access new funding streams, and promote change at a national level. Even though a lot has been done during the last years, there are still some important steps to take in order to move social innovation from the margin to the mainstream of the political agenda.

(5) What do you expect for the future of social innovation; in which fields will social innovation have the biggest impact?

Our society is not only facing such challenges as social exclusion and unemployment as well as inequalities in wealth, education, and health care, but also climate change and sustainable development. The most urgent and important innovations in the 21st century will take place in the social field. Traditional ways in which the market and the state have responded to societal demands are no longer sufficient. At the same time, technological innovations reveal limitations when it comes to coping with pressing societal challenges.

In the SI DRIVE project we elaborated four major topics with regard to the future of social innovation:

Social Innovation, democracy and participation

Social innovation builds on the desire of citizen to participate. With the expansion of the participation repertoire, social innovations challenge the current content of the whole range of ‘democratic’ and other types of politics. Participating citizens strengthen established structures both of democracy and of peaceful and prosperous societies more generally. At the same time, these citizens contest the existing power relations, in government, in the market, in work organisations and in their local communities. National, regional or local participation currently does not sufficiently unlock the potential of civil society in co-creating solutions for problems and demands that are theirs. Politics of all types need new ways to empower the citizen, to give the citizen responsibility for problem solving, to enable them to design and implement their own solutions, and importantly to dramatically improve their own agency to do so increasingly in the future

Social innovation and the economy

Social innovations create social and economic value. Social innovators, social entrepreneurs and the social economy can deliver new jobs and new sustainable growth opportunities. However, it is still largely misunderstood that social innovation also has a number of beneficial impacts well beyond traditional growth and employment effects, for instance by strengthening social cohesion, civic participation and commitment. The ability of social innovations to foster economic and social returns at the same time makes social innovation a promising option for creating more sustainable, just and resilient societies. Under this perspective social innovations are also a growing economic factor, reflected by the remarkable participation of economy partners in social innovation initiatives and the growing interests of companies for this kind of innovation going beyond pure corporate social responsibility. The economic potential of the broad range of social innovations is still underdeveloped and underestimated.

Social Innovation and the ecological transition

Social innovations can also create and increase ecological and environmental value. They have a very important role in moving society through the socio-ecological transition necessary to combat, or at least mitigate, climate change and other environmental stresses and degradations, the challenges of which are set to increase dramatically in the foreseeable future. Many social innovations already act upon the understanding that it is living assets, both human and natural especially working together, which are the only real sources of any type of innovation, including technological and business innovation.

Digital transformation needs Social Innovation

Digital technology has disruptive effects, dismantling current social relationships. Technology untamed brings great risks as well as great opportunities for everyone. To cope with these challenges, citizens and other actors need to understand how to master the digital transformation and put it to the service of society. Technological innovation needs to be strongly influenced by social innovation. Technological and social innovations can work hand-in-hand to create new services and products with benefits for the whole of society, as well as opening up new markets.

For further information

SI DRIVE website: www.si-drive.eu

Howaldt, Jürgen et al. (2018): Atlas of social innovation. New practices for a better future.