Advisory report: Shaping the future - From optimisation to transformation
The ambitions that the Netherlands has in the areas of housing, healthcare, climate and agriculture cannot be achieved within the current system. Innovation policy must focus more on what will be needed in the future and no longer reinforce what already exists. This is stated by the Advisory council for science, technology and innovation (AWTI) in its advice: 'Shaping the future - From optimisation to transformation'.
Innovation policy mainly strengthens existing processes and interests
The Dutch are becoming increasingly aware of the urgent need to tackle major societal issues in the areas of climate, food, energy, mobility and healthcare. We have challenging ambitions such as the ambition to be climate neutral by 2050 and the ambition that all Dutch people will age healthy for at least five years longer by 2050. There are binding international agreements in these areas. We need innovative solutions for these major societal challenges. These solutions are not only technical in nature and will not simply materialise unaided; they will demand radical changes in Dutch society: so-called 'transformations'.
With the current innovation policy we cannot realise the necessary changes, and therefore our ambitions in the Netherlands.
The present policy reinforces existing processes, structures and interests, with little attention for the fundamentally different perspectives that are necessary to address the major societal challenges we face. The Netherlands also lacks an inspiring vision of the future of our country.
Transformations: Building up and breaking down
Future vision with balanced values and interests
The AWTI sees it as crucial that an inspiring future vision is created, which is based on clear choices. Such a vision of the future works as a compass and magnet for researchers, entrepreneurs, companies, social organizations, citizens and civil servants. It will create clarity around future markets and generate more support for innovations which align with the chosen development pathways. This in turn will give companies and investors more confidence in the development and implementation of innovations, and will give citizens confidence and greater certainty to develop initiatives themselves and switch to sustainable innovative solutions. Parliament must make a number of clear choices about what we consider important, what we give priority to, and how we weigh different values and interests against each other. The government must take the lead and organise that the vision of the future is created in dialogue with society, integrate the different perspectives and think through the consequences.
Image of the future as a compass and magnet
Eppo Bruins, AWTI chairman
With this advice, the AWTI is appealing to the new House of Representatives. After all, parliament has an important role in the value discussion that underlies the choices required for such a vision of the future of the Netherlands. Now, after the elections, with new impetus in the room, there is the opportunity to do that. Hopefully also the courage. In that respect I am optimistic and hopeful. The urgency was already there. The call to come up with a vision of the future is also not new. It is not without reason that the report contains relatively many references to that effect. Do something with that sometime. It is now or never.
Sjoukje Heimovaara, AWTI councilor
We have more than forty visions in the field of agriculture alone. What we need is a cross-sectoral vision of the future for our country as a whole in the long term. How do we want to live, work, generate energy, stay healthy and travel in 2050? And what do we want with nature, agriculture, water and food in our country? Such a vision of the future works as a compass on which we can navigate and is at the same time an attractive and clear image on which we can focus our efforts in the Netherlands.
What else can the government do to achieve its ambitions?
In addition to the future vision, the AWTI recommends using pricing and standards to further support transformations (CO2 price, eco tax or 'true pricing'). These are proven effective instruments to accelerate transformations. They stimulate demand for sustainable alternatives and make unsustainable routes less attractive. Fear of a negative effect on the competitive position of the Netherlands is unfounded. The government should also create better conditions for social initiatives and co-creation. Because a vision of the future can only become reality in close collaboration with companies, researchers, social organizations and citizens. The government must therefore make better use of the knowledge and innovative power from society. Furthermore, more knowledge and expertise is needed on the part of the government about the underlying problems and challenges for transformations.
Combine pricing, standardizing and subsidizing