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Social innovation must complement technological innovation to respond to societal challenges and to improve citizens' quality of life  

Current EU policies place too much emphasis on the technological side of innovation to the detriment of social innovation, according to an opinion unanimously adopted by the European Committee of the Regions on Thursday. It defines social innovation as n ew ideas developed in co-creation by the public and by local communities to meet social needs.

Europe's local and regional leaders see social innovation as a resource that should be used in different policy areas to improve the quality of life for people in Europe. "Social and technological innovation complement one another, which is why the European Commission should be in the vanguard of efforts to develop social innovation and share knowledge and good practice in this domain", rapporteur Marcelle Hendrickx (NL/ALDE), Member of the Executive Council of Tilburg, said.

The opinion urges the European Commission to make social innovation one of the criteria in applications for EU funds, to open up funds and programmes to non-traditional institutions and groupings and to allow room for experimentation. Developments in social innovation in the different Member States should be assessed with clear indicators. The European Committee of the Regions is also repeating its call for simplification of regulatory framework particularly in the area of cohesion policy to provide for a more innovation-friendly environment.

For local and regional authorities, social innovation means having an open mind vis-a-vis initiatives and ideas from the public, businesses, knowledge and educational institutions, and social organisations. The opinion urges them to play a leadership and coordinating role in terms of bringing stakeholders together, promoting good initiatives, creating flexible legal frameworks and ensuring that knowledge is shared.

"A good example of the way social innovation works is the Proeftuin Dementie (Dementia Testbed) in Tilburg, in the Netherlands. Businesses, educational and knowledge institutions, carers and patients and their families are working together to help patients live longer and more comfortably at home. The technical innovation being employed there is being developed with these different groups", Ms Hendrickx explains.

Lauri Ouvinen
Tel. +32 22822063

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