The future of innovation will focus more on people than on purely technological and/or business (or countries) competitiveness-related issues. Innovation is more of a social phenomenon, depending on such factors as people’s creativity, social networks, and innovation culture in general. The technological side of innovation is not the most crucial; the research has also shown that finance, although significant, is not a critical innovations’ factor either.
We should also see social factors not only as innovation ‘supply’ drivers. The increasing attention from business companies to environmental, social differentiation or inclusion issues speaks about the increasing importance of innovation ‘demand’ factors, traditionally considered as externalities. These factors are being internalised, besides such internal drivers as competitive advantages. This fact might also reveal new sides of the markets mechanism.
Given that innovation is driven and more and more pulled by social factors, we should still recognise that these factors vary a lot not only across the world but also across the regions. While some societies live in web 2.0 era, some others still struggle in industrial age, which influences their capabilities and incentives to adopt and create all kinds of innovations. In more innovation-advanced countries innovations become omnipresent and because of the cumulative nature of innovation, its pace increases dramatically, while the businesses and governments in “slower” countries still think how to survive. Therefore, there is a huge risk that changes and innovations will also create more differentiations and tensions. The speed of innovation has been different till now, and the differences will be increasing even more. The differentiation creates an important challenge for all – innovation developers, users, researchers, policy makers – how to deal with the different development speeds without slowing down the leaders.
The growing importance of the social side of innovation and its recognition will influence more, create new challenges and bring researchers’ attention to the sectors, driven primarily by people: public governance (Drucker, 2005, puts that “the spirit of an organization is created from the top”, so, it should not be different for governments and other social organisations) and service sectors. There is a substantial part of knowledge about technological process and product innovations, the “soft” innovations and innovations in other sectors than manufacturing have been neglected. Since people relations with the current ICT and other technological changes, the greatest potential of transformations lies in the mentioned areas.
To conclude, innovation is a complex phenomenon, which is reflected in the growing number of interdisciplinary approaches towards it. Innovation will have several futures, depending on the readiness to adopt and/or develop it; this will be reflected in geographical, sectorial, or technological differences. The challenge for innovation actors will be to embrace more social factors, both pushing and pulling innovation, and deal with the differences in innovation speed.