In a rapidly evolving world, grappling with climate change and the triple planetary crisis, transformative innovation stands as a crucial solution to these pressing challenges. Strategic learning is increasingly recognized as a key component in both ecosystem development and the broader realm of transformative innovation.
This concept of strategic learning is dynamic and iterative, involving continuous adaptation and refinement of policies and practices to align with new insights and stakeholder feedback. Such an approach is essential not only for addressing global challenges but also carries significant implications for policy development. In response to this, UNECE organized an international policy dialogue themed “Exploring the Dynamics of Experimentation”, as part of the recent 15th session of the UNECE Team of Specialists on Innovation and Competitiveness Policies (ToS-ICP).
The Chair of the ToS-ICP and Chief Strategy Officer at Vinnova, Mr. Kjell-Håkan Närfelt, emphasized the critical role of strategic learning as the foundational element of transformative innovation.
The discussions highlighted the synergy between innovation, experimentation, and learning and focused on leveraging historical insights, current evaluations, and future trends for effective policymaking, emphasizing the need to understand and navigate systemic transformations. Experts also explored emerging strategic learning tools and their application across various levels of government, with case studies illustrating good practices and lessons learnt for future policy making.
Strategic learning was recognized as a dynamic, multifaceted journey, and integral part of transformative innovation, central to developing sustainable and inclusive innovation strategies with the broader goals of societal and environmental well-being, closely aligning with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Innovation, experimentation, and learning are not standalone components but are deeply interconnected, forming a cohesive triad that drives progress across various sectors. Innovation acts as a spark for change, bringing fresh ideas and perspectives. Experimentation serves as a rigorous testing ground, refining and validating these innovative ideas.
Learning, in this context, goes beyond acquiring knowledge — it is about developing the capacity for adaptability and resilience, essential for sustaining innovation over time. This interconnectedness of innovation, experimentation, and learning is what makes the entire process strategic. Working cohesively enables a strategic effort, creating a cycle of continuous improvement and advancement. This has significant influence on policy development, as policies need to be dynamically informed and shaped by the continuous interplay of these three elements, to effectively respond to evolving societal and technological landscapes.
The session gathered a diverse group of representatives of government, civil society, business, and other international organizations, such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the European Commission. It also saw the contribution of members of the UNECE Transformative Innovation Network (ETIN) – a newly launched UNECE transformative innovation network funded by the German Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK).
Further work on strategic learning will be one of the main workstreams of ETIN in 2024, with the aim to foster collaborations, sharing best practices, and supporting member States in developing resilient and adaptive innovation ecosystems. In line with the results of the UNECE Commission’s 70th session on digital and green transformation, the Team of Specialists will continue to explore new collaborative pathways to bolster transformative innovation in the UNECE region.