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Innovation in Lithuania: calling for the storm.

Economic crisis and recession can not only be seen as a destructive process, but also as the process of "creative destruction." Kastytis Gecas, the head of the Lithuanian Innovation Center, spoke with The Baltic Times about how risk is the core of innovation, and how a long time development of businesses is ensured by a permanent innovation storm.

What is business innovation and how does it differ from innovation in business?

It is not so important how these two words 'business' and 'innovation' are combined. We talk about the process of exploitation of knowledge as capital used in business operations. A different metaphor is to see innovation as a transformation of knowledge into money. The productive knowledge for innovation may have various forms and also different sources: personnel, clients, suppliers, consultants, company networks, research institutions. When we talk about business innovations, we mean new ways of making business; when we talk about innovations in business, we talk about renewal of internal life in enterprises--the development of new products or services, new technological processes, or new ways of management and working.

What are the most common myths people have about business innovation?

Quite often we attribute innovation to science commercialization, research and inventions where sophisticated research results are used by so called high-tech companies. In Lithuania, innovation is traditionally bound with technologies; however, they involve a considerably larger scope, including innovation in management, marketing, design and auxiliary processes at the enterprise. Innovation is a process attributable to any business that aims at higher added value for customers. On the other hand, innovation is a mindset, it presents a certain way of thinking, and not only the specific activities of an enterprise or novel ways in delivering production or services to the market. Moreover, innovation is about risk, change, and markets, and it requires a specific capacity and skills in management techniques. Here we talk about creativity, research competence, risk-taking, a culture of change, and also willingness for partnership and networking. On its turn, innovation management as the discipline is of horizontal nature, and it goes far beyond traditional management methods.

What is the role of the Lithuanian Innovation Center in implementing Lithuanian innovation policy?

Mandated by its shareholders--the Ministry of Economy, the Ministry of Education and Science, and the Lithuanian Confederation of Industrialists--our center provides specific innovation support free-of-charge services to more than 1,500 clients in Lithuania and abroad. This would be professional consulting assistance seeking to ensure the minimum possible innovation risk. We do not promote certain technological solutions or concrete management-related innovations; more exactly, we are process consultants--advisors striving to assist companies to innovate and to innovate better, in a systematic way, helping business to 'make' and to 'manage' innovation within a company. In addition to raising awareness of innovation by workshops, publications, training, portal or individual advisory sessions, we offer concrete services to assist companies in innovation. These include technology auditing, transnational technology brokerage and innovation-oriented partnership building via our membership in Enterprise Europe Network, innovation management training, and also preparation of innovation projects for reception of support from [European] Structural Funds.

Can you say a little bit about the annual Innovation Prize competition?

Each year the Lithuanian Innovation Center, together with the Lithuanian Confederation of Industrialists, organizes this competition. Any Lithuanian company from any sector can apply for the prize in two categories: innovative company and/or innovative product, with seven or eight prizes in each category. Experts evaluate not only a 'technological' novelty which is important, but [also] innovative behavior of a company--how knowledge is used in favor of development and growth. Therefore we have an entire spectrum of different business among the winners--high-tech companies, 'traditional' manufacturers, service providers, even commercial banks. In the category of innovative products, the most important aspect is value innovation--new value of a product for clients. Here various products have been awarded--electronic devices, biotech, fridges, IT solutions, food products and also service packages.

How has the role of innovation changed during the period of economic crisis?

Innovation strategy is one of the best ways to combat the recession for a longer-term strength of a company or an economy as a whole. Risk and change is the core of innovation. Economical guru Joseph Shumpeteer argued recessions could provide a platform for innovation and economic growth by unleashing a process of 'creative destruction.' Periods of economic turbulence have been associated with the development of new technologies, new products and [new] ways of working. Innovation in business is something similar to permanent struggle against storm--innovative enterprises accept market challenges and transform them into opportunities permanently. On behalf of the center, I'd encourage living under a permanent innovation 'storm' because it will really provide a foundation for long-term development of your business.

On June 11 at the Swedish Business awards, the prize for "Innovation of the Year" was not given to any of the candidate companies. What would be your comment on that?

My comment would be very simple. Do not consider innovation as something extraordinary, and look how added value is created at companies and to what extent knowledge has been exploited in their commercial success. We might find a lot of innovative solutions and innovative companies, I am confident.
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Title Annotation:Special
Author:Vaige, Laima
Publication:The Baltic Times (Riga, Latvia)
Article Type:Interview
Date:Jun 18, 2009
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