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UN-ECE Transformative Innovation Network (ETIN)

ETIN logo

The UN-ECE Transformative Innovation Network (ETIN) brings together innovation agencies, policy makers, government officials, think tanks, researchers, practitioners, experts, and entrepreneurs mandated to supporting or engaged in transformative innovation in the UNECE region. The objective of the network is to analyse, discuss, and cooperate on better understanding trends, challenges and opportunities of transformative innovation for sustainable development and explore ways of how the government can play a productive and catalytic role in these efforts. Responding to the clear need for concerted, structured dialogue, tools, and joint initiatives, ETIN will host regular events, joint activities, and produce open-access tools to achieve its aims. The project is joint initiative between UNECE and the German Federal Agency for Disruptive Innovation (SPRIND) and is funded by the German Government.

What is ETIN?

Transformative innovation is an umbrella term for radical and disruptive innovation, which through technologies, ideas, business models, and partnership arrangements bring about fundamental changes to the way we consume or produce, creating social value. This includes creating markets for unexploited demand, challenging existing assumptions and turning products into services through digitalisation and platforms. Supporting transformative innovation has been and will be central to sustainable development as it can create new markets, boost productivity, address socioeconomic challenges, and, ultimately, fostering economic prosperity in UNECE states. Many countries show strong political ambition as seen by the creation of dedicated departments and agencies that are mandated to support transformative innovation.

However, transformative innovation is inherently unpredictable and requires appropriate incentive structures, performance measures and institutional frameworks and infrastructure to allow for experimentation around new, more radical and mostly more risky ideas. Finding a productive role for government support, therefore, inevitably involves a switch from planning and technology focus towards a system that allows for broad limited scale policy experimentation, the right kind of constraints, and continuous learning. In other words, transformative innovation in governance itself.

Such challenges are at the center of concerns of all UNECE member States. Responding to clear need for concerted, structured dialogue, tools, and joint initiatives, this project has set up and aims to create momentum around the ETIN, bringing together policy makers, innovation agencies, think tanks, entrepreneurs and experts in the field of transformative innovation from the UNECE region to discuss, cooperate on, and develop tools and publications around the nature of, trends around, and the role of government to enable and promote broader and more systematic experimentation with ideas with potential to catalyze transformative innovation, including around societal challenges. This project is conducted together with the German Federal Agency for Disruptive Innovation (SPRIND) and is made possible through funding by the German Ministry of Economy and Climate Change.

What activities does ETIN engage in?

This network will engage through a series of meetings and activities around two work streams:

Understanding the promise and peril of transformative innovation. This work stream will serve to gain a deeper understanding of innovation overall, with a particular focus on transformative innovation, and scouting the potential of transformative innovation to improve societies in the short, medium, and long-term.  Strengthening the role of government and agencies promoting transformative innovation. The second work stream focuses on the role of governance and innovation agencies in finding the right institutional arrangements and processes to allow for experimentation and flexibility within clear constraints. 

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Each work stream involves a range of regular events, joint activities, and podcast episodes of UNECE’s Innovation Matters Podcast on different topics. The first work stream centers around an UNECE flagship publication on examining the opportunities and challenges of transformative innovation. Accessible through an ETIN portal, with both public and membership materials, several tools will be developed, including discussion forums around specific topics, a digital dashboard with indicators related to country-level readiness for transformative innovation, case studies, and e-learning modules. Finally, specifically to support innovation agencies, UNECE will develop and publish materials on principles, case studies, and practices for the different functions such agencies should fill.

What is the ETIN structure?

ETIN will consist of a broader network of relevant stakeholders and a dedicated core group of advisors and experts guiding its work on both workstreams. Within the core group, ETIN will host three dedicated task forces to focus on particular goals and projects:

Task Force 1 (TF 1) on developing the structure of the flagship publication and ideas for events under workstream 1. Task Force 2 (TF 2) (September 2022) on organizational matters and events under workstream 2, which will look at tools, mechanisms and processes for innovation agencies to provide catalytic support and experimentation for transformative innovation.   Task Force 3 (TF 3) (September 2022) on developing the structure and content of the digital online community. 

 To visit the ETIN website, please click here.

For any questions or additional information on how to become a member of ETIN, please contact: [email protected].

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