East European innovation policy is imitating Finland, but less efficiently
The research of Professor Rainer Kattel is comparing the impact of public structures on innovation in East Europe and elsewhere.
The research of Professor Rainer Kattel, the director of Ragnar Nurkse School of Innovation and Governance, which received the national research award this year, studied how the public structures (various organisations of the public sector and their cooperation patterns) are influencing innovation in East Europe, compared e.g. to the Nordic countries or Asia. No such comparisons have been conducted elsewhere. „We have brought some new methodology to innovation research,“ says Kattel. A major conclusion of the research declares that East Europe has copied much from the West, but little account has been taken of local needs. This causes the paradox of copying – the policies are similar to Finland, but their efficiency and effect is essentially lower.
RNS is divided into two main parts – one dealing with innovation and the other with governance and public administration. While many researchers of the world are arguing over the innovation policy itself, if it should be conducted through lowering of taxes or supporting of export, RNS concentrates more on the issues, how the policy is put into practice, how it is understood by officials and politicians, how and by whom the policy is assessed. Study of technology and society (e.g. e-government) and financial regulations are added as side lines. The objective is not to concentrate too much on a single discipline.
„Innovation does not mean that a man wakes up in the morning and does something, but it takes place in a certain environment,“ explains Kattel. Economic should be observed on a broader scale, together with the social system, education, culture. A keyword is ’economic structure’ and not only in the meaning, what the companies do, but also the institutional framework.
„Our methodology is targeted to the principle that life is very diverse and we should be able to describe this diversity e.g. on 20 pages,“ says Kattel. „It is more important to understand, what can influence entrepreneurs to adopt certain decisions, not what is a quantitative consequence of some policy, because it is very difficult to measure many things.“ He brings an example: financing of health care, which is very complicated, because one cannot define health unambiguously, unlike disease.
Thus his school is dealing rather with interpretation of the meaning of the surrounding and drafting of narrative – which does not mean that empirics or statistics would not play essential role there. Strong side of such approach is the possibility to describe better the diversity of life. Weak side is the fact that with this method it is not easy to put things into one sentence or one number – and the decision-makers may not like this.
The specific research methods are interviews, participation surveys, which in extreme cases may be conducted in ethnographic or anthropological style. For example, in case of Master’s theses it has also happened that the author goes to work somewhere and then writes his graduation thesis on its basis.