Mission économique en Corée - International Conference on Innovation Clusters

  • 12/05/2009
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(Texte disponible uniquement en anglais)

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are not living in the best of times. In most countries, the crisis is shaking the very foundations of the economy and even society and its values. This crisis touches many sectors, from finance to transportation, from housing to manufacturing, all across the globe.

And yet, my main message to you today, is one of hope and of confidence in the future. Every crisis opens up new opportunities.

Our crisis may be deep, it may be global, but it does not make our economy stand still.
Korea is the best example of that. Despite the global slowdown, the fundamentals of your economy are sound. They inspire confidence in a firm recovery.
I am sure that our Korean partners will agree that the keyword to recovery and to renewed progress, is innovation.

There could have been no better venue for this conference than South Korea.
Your country comes first in a world ranking of innovation performance published by the Boston Consulting Group. I am delighted to address this Conference on Innovation Clusters, because such a gathering, in a country like Korea, truly forms the heart of innovation.

Innovation is a word which looks deceptively simple. It is all about doing new things, or doing things in a new way. But often, innovation is actually a complex process.
It does not come by itself. It requires lots of work.

Most specialists will agree that a number of key factors make innovation possible.

The first is very obvious: innovation requires new ideas.
Ideas which are the result of creative thinking.
These ideas may concern new products, or better processes.
They may aim at finding new customers, or new ways of getting products to the consumer.

By stating that new ideas are at the heart of innovation, I am also stressing that innovation is basically a state of mind, and therefore a matter of people. They are at the centre of things.
We therefore need to do everything possible to allow creativity to blossom.
We need to leave enough freedom for talented people to do what they do best: create.
Talented people need to be cherished and appreciated for their innovative ideas.
Innovation cannot be forced, but it can be encouraged and facilitated.
Managers who allow this freedom within the structures of their company, realize that it is crucial for success and progress.

A second key factor for successful innovation, appears to be the opposite of this freedom.
I?m talking about leadership: leadership focused on innovation, leadership through strategies, structures and processes which allow innovative thinking.
Most people need to be motivated before their creativity can flourish.
Good managers will therefore encourage innovative behaviour, and find incentives and tools to foster creative thinking.

The third key factor is : excellence.
If we want the complex process of innovation to succeed, we need the best minds available. Innovation requires well trained researchers and workers, who feel committed to their job and who find real satisfaction in bringing innovation to their working environment. They need to be well educated. This is a very important priority, because we know that education is expensive and comes under pressure in times of economic hardship.

The contact between the worlds of enterprise and of scientific research is vital to overcome today?s difficulties. And that is also why it is wise to design strategies and interfaces which foster collaboration between universities and companies.

On the other hand, open innovation tends to work in very open networks, where researchers freely contribute their own results to the network.
Such an open network in the form of clusters will help everyone to make even more progress.

This type of open innovation has only recently been introduced in a commercial environment.

This conference and its focus on clustered, networked and therefore open innovation will intensify this process. It will, undoubtedly, convince more companies to collaborate along those lines and to design the appropriate platforms for it.

In that collaboration, new ideas can be freely shared, new components or procedures jointly designed, and then be applied and commercialized by each company individually.
Professor Declerck of IMEC will demonstrate that in his presentation later this morning.

This organized and clustered but open collaboration of companies is not naïve. It is an absolute necessity.
True innovation requires collaboration, it?s as simple as that.

With our delegation, we have come here to intensify our collaboration between Belgian and Korean innovators.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Creative, well-educated people in an open but well-structured environment are at the heart of innovation. They will be the cornerstone of a truly innovative economy.

If we give these talented people the chance to prove themselves, I am sure we can be confident in the future.
A future shaped by people with innovative ideas, together building an advanced society centred on human development.

This is not simply a matter of economic good sense. It is also a responsibility to humanity.

With your impressive expertise and ability, I am sure we both can help shaping such a future.

Thank you.