21 June 2023 – Renowned experts from Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Slovenia gathered at the Ljubljana Castle at the invitation of the Regional Development Agency Ljubljana Urban Region to look into the role of the public sector in building innovation ecosystems. The showcased best practices of innovation in public administration in Nordic countries prove that an innovative public sector can play a decisive role in fostering development at national, regional and local level. The first steps in this direction have already been taken in Slovenia as well.
The international conference We are Already 5,000+ Innovative featured many practical examples, panel discussions and roundtables; coupled with an informal exchange of ideas and opinions among the experts, decision-makers and public sector stakeholders, it offered a valuable insight into innovation in the public sector. Mag. Lilijana Madjar, Director of the Regional Development Agency Ljubljana Urban Region underlined one of the key highlights of the conference by stressing that it is on the shoulders of all public sector stakeholders, especially policy makers, to create an environment that stimulates innovation, while also offering a stimulating legislative framework.
The presence of the Minister of Public Administration Ms. Sanja Ajanović Hovnik, the Minister of Digital Transformation Dr. Emilija Stojmenova Duh, and the Minister of Cohesion and Regional Development Dr. Aleksander Jevšek was a testament to the relevance of the theme that was in focus of the conference. The three ministers were unanimous that networking and collaboration as well as continuous learning and skills improvement of all key stakeholders were the pre-condition for putting in place an effective innovative ecosystem that, apart from the public sector, also includes the economy, research and educational institutions and NGOs. In this context, Minister Ajanović Hovnik placed particular focus on the presentation of the Policy Making Hub, a platform that will bring together abovementioned stakeholders to work together to design and test innovative policies, regulations and public services in order to foster the transition to a circular and low-carbon economy and society. Minister Jevšek said that a considerable portion of funding under the new programming period was earmarked for development and innovation. Minister Stojmenova Duh stressed the importance of digital technologies in facilitating the achievement of the set goals.
The conference participants were addressed by the guests of honour, the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Norway, Her Excellency Trine Skymoen and Deputy Mayor of the City of Ljubljana, Mr. Dejan Crnek. Ms. Skymoen was pleased to note the results of the collaboration with the Donor States of Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein to a green and inclusive Europe and underlined that the conference was a perfect opportunity to build further partnerships and upgrade knowledge. Mr. Crnek said that Ljubljana was an exceptionally innovative city thanks to the leadership of Mayor Janković who put his vast business experience to best use and revamped the work of city administration. As one of his novelties, the Mayor invited the residents of Ljubljana to participate in the creation of the 2025 vision of the city. Now, the city of Ljubljana is eagerly expecting another breakthrough event that will add to the city’s public transport, i.e. the inauguration of the Ljubljanica River routes that will be incorporated in the public transport system.
The keynote speaker, Prof. Dr. Thomas Hoholm, Head of the Department of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at the BI Norwegian Business School, an internationally acclaimed expert in innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystems, stressed the importance of a strong institutional support. He also recalled that the industry and academia must work more closer together, not only in R&D projects but also through joint initiatives for skills development. Dr. Peter Wostner from the Institute of Macroeconomic Analysis and Development also drew attention to the importance of innovation ecosystems, stressing that reorganisation and rethinking the way they work were of paramount importance for businesses, in order for their action to complement. According to Dr. Wostner, both constitute what is the basic condition for the smart and green transition that all countries are trying to achieve.
According to Dr. Damjan Kavaš, Director of the Institute for Economic Research, the EU public sector accounts for over 25% of jobs. It is not only a major employer, but also the main provider of services and source of public procurement. Instead of policy fragmentation and governance dispersion, we need a modern, innovative public administration that is able to learn fast and that builds on an improved governance system. Only revamped modern administration can truly work to the full benefit of businesses and citizens. The main goal of the Norway’s National Programme for Supplier Development is to help the public sector to use public procurements to develop more innovations and offers support to providers in their search for new business opportunities in the public sector, explained Programme Director Ingebjørg Harto. Public organisations can update their services for the citizens most efficiently through collaboration with the economy, i.e. before the launch of the procurement procedures, so that they stimulate offers for best solutions and ensure stable conditions for growth to suppliers.
Certain important steps towards enhanced creativity and innovation have already been taken at the Ministry of Public Administration. Dr. Staša Mesec and Genovefa Ružić presented the projects Inovativen.si and Policy Lab that have been designed to roll-out new innovative approaches and ways of work to improve the effectiveness, efficiency and quality of the work of public administration. They both underlined that creativity, innovation and having free hands to experiment were the pre-requisite for designing efficient public services.
Further good practices were presented to participants. Daði Rúnar Pétursson from Ríkiskaup which is the central public procurement agency in Iceland. Pétursson described how the agency went from a reactive to a proactive actor that fosters synergies between public procurements and innovations by encouraging innovation-led purchases, helping recognise and understand the opportunities for innovations in the public sector and facilitating ways to launch innovative procurements with the aim of fostering social development.
The CEO of Liechtenstein Bankers Association Simon Tribelhorn spoke about the system of private investments in innovative entrepreneurship that is oriented in sustainable economy which complements national public financing. The system has been well received by ”green” investors that seek green investments, while start-ups use this financial injection to grow faster. The cumulative effects of the system are positively felt by the entire society.
Eva Pandora Baldursdottir from the City of Reykjavik, Head of Digitalisation Service at the City of Ljubljana Arian Debeljak, Director of the Regional Development Agency Ljubljana Urban Region mag. Lilijana Madjar and Deputy CEO of the University of Iceland Science Park Thorey Einarsdottir participated in the roundtable and shared interesting views on various aspects of innovation in the public sector ranging from digitalisation and sustainability to policy development and urban planning. Martin J. Matt from the Kreativagentur enterprise in Liechtenstein explained that only innovative communication truly raises awareness of the public about sustainability issues.
This innovation conference put spotlight on the many opportunities that are offered by the introduction of innovations in the public sector. Through the line-up of distinguished speakers and the contacts formed between experts in various fields, the event has already contributed to the setting up of an innovation ecosystem that is a must for a successful development of any country.
The event was supported by the Fund for Bilateral Relations under the EEA and Norway Grants which are the contribution of Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein to a green, competitive and inclusive Europe.
Source: RRA LUR