The term "innovation" has already become used perhaps too wide, losing a certain amount of its initial meaning - development of a novel marketable product or service. I believe, however, that this terminological expansion reflects the direction where the key elements of innovation as a process are gradually shifting. Most remarkably, the roles of science, technology and production in the innovation process are going to become less dominating, and the importance of "softer" aspects, like marketing, design, organisation, etc., are permanently growing. This also causes more significant inclusion of younger (and perhaps academically less educated) people in the innovation processes.
Taking the narrow viewpoint of an innovation support manager: there are some already evident tendencies that will probably be strengthening in the future. This is especially noticeable in the case of the most complex innovation support structures - science/technology or research parks. I believe that the emphasis of these innovation support structures will be:
- Shifted from business incubation to business internationalization services.
In the globalizing business environment, just founding a company will certainly remain of some local social importance, but will be significantly enhanced if followed by a consequent specific support of business growth and internationalization. Moreover, the contribution of international technology transfer to the formation of new businesses will be rapidly growing.
- Widened towards overlapping with education and human development support.
The growingly dominating element of innovation support activities will be the attraction and development of smart people with various qualifications. This means that science/technology parks are gradually transforming from simply "technology hubs" into full-scale "learning villages".
- More related with practical local and regional development needs.
Science/technology parks will become testing and sample areas for novel local social and community development interests and needs. The quality of the environment and activities in the parks are remarkably higher than local/regional average, thus forming a sort of pulling engine for local development.