Editor's note

International Internet Magazine. Baltic States news & analytics Wednesday, 16.01.2019, 12:44

Social innovation: adapting Baltic States’ research

Eugene Eteris, BC, Riga/Copenhagen, 29.09.2017.Print version

Recent social innovation competition in Riga provides ground for analysis of both modern social issues’ status and adequate innovations to accompany social progress. In October, another “social research” tournament takes place in Brussels. It shows increasing Baltic States scientific community’s role in socio-economic development.

Excessive attention to social issues among the EU member states is, generally, in line with the Union’s integration mainstream, i.e. so-called social market economy development. In other words, it is a kind of liberal capitalism’s approach but with the “positive social impact”! In this regard, “social innovation” looks like an “imposed” innovative agenda for all the EU states’ governments and sectoral ministries: they have to use all kinds of innovations for the benefit of people. For this sort of activity the member states are having, for example, their national science academies (which have to be more active, of course!) supported by the EU’s financial impetus for strategic investments and active R&D role in social progress.


This is what the two innovation events: one from the European Investment Bank’s Institute, in September, and another from the European Commission in October) are having in common: instigating social dimension in modern entrepreneurship.    

Social innovation: global, EU and states’ efforts

There are, definitely, numerous “helping hands” in the EU member states’ social progress activities: e.g. yearly World Economic Forums in Davos (the one in 2016 with the 4th industrial revolution’s impact on social changes). Debates in Davos have been generally on how traditional liberal capitalism’s technical components, which have come off the rails, can be reformed, as well as “fixing market capitalism” and searching for responsive leadership.

See, e.g. http://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/ and https://www.weforum.org/events/world-economic-forum-annual-meeting-2017

That means, that capitalism’s “liberal hand” shall work hand-in-hand with other venture capitalists’ moves, e.g. through the EU’s strategic investment plan and EIB’s “catalyst’s support” for research in social development. European Commission works together with its strategic partner, the European Investment Bank (EIB) Group. See: http://institute.eib.org and


The role of the EU’s governance is quite important too: it is the so-called “smart” growth recommendation from the EU-2020 strategy to the EU member states aimed at increasing innovative component in growth and jobs creation. Here is, for example, the 3% requirement for national share in GDP; however, even this is often too much a burden for the EU states: e.g. in Latvia it is only 0, 7% of GDP devoted to R&D investments and innovations.  


See: https://ec.europa.eu/info/strategy/european-semester/framework/europe-2020-strategy_en   

Besides, to stimulate investment process in the member states, the EU adopted in the beginning of 2016 an “investment plan” (mentioned above) with about half a billion euros up to 2020 in supportive most perspective for social progress directions.


See: http://www.baltic-course.com/eng/good_for_business/?doc=117111&ins_print.  


There are as well some cooperative efforts in “social innovations” among the three Baltic States and all other countries around the Baltic Sea region. See: “Activating social dialogue for the Baltic States” (http://www.baltic-course.com/eng/editors_note/?doc=16299&ins_print) and “Social dialogue in the member states becomes a priority”, in:  



Then, another EU’s inspiring factor shall be mentioned, i.e. the “Future of Europe” discussion which shows the social component in the EU perspective integration efforts. In the EU’s positive agenda, as J-C Junker underlined, “it is the time to build a more united, stronger and more democratic Europe for 2025”.



However, European Commission has often underlined that the pace of innovation in the EU was far from being optimal: about half of the EU states, including Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and other 11 states are so-called “moderate innovators”; worst are only “modest innovators” in Bulgaria and Romania.


Among leaders in innovative research are only five EU states: these are so-called innovative leaders: Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Holland. European Commission’s scoreboard helps to assess areas in which the EU states need to concentrate their efforts in boosting innovation. See: http://www.baltic-course.com/eng/modern_eu/?doc=123089&ins_print

Quite notable is a recent Latvian Academy of sciences initiative (with the active role of its President, Ojars Sparitis) towards cooperative efforts in by-lateral R&D activities with the Danish Science Academy.      

Additional efforts in innovation: digitalisation

To stimulate social innovations some additional efforts are needed, as social progress in fact is endless: in the end, it all comes down to people. According to the European “social market economy” concept, the EU member states have to make “whatever it takes” in putting people first and empowering them for a “future that works for all”. In its most optimistic approach - to support and encourage those who, by certain circumstances, have no potentials to acquire all favors of increased growth: elderly, disabled, etc. Numerous other sources of “encouragement” shall complement to the best parts of human nature, such as creativity, empathy, stewardship, etc. to lift all social groups into a new collective and moral consciousness based on a shared sense of destiny. See: http://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/01/the-fourth-industrial-revolution-what-it-means-and-how-to-respond.  

It is correct and incumbent on both public and private “forces” to make sure that such encouragements prevail. Among them are two contemporary efforts: one by the ECB Institute, another by the European Commission.  

As to the latter, the Commission strives to transform European societies more rapidly with the active use of modern technological/digital changes. In fact, such trends as digitalisation and automation are changing peoples’ live and work faster than ever before, reshaping the labour market and economy in fundamental ways. Digital/ICT-based businesses, the creative industries, high tech manufacturing, and knowledge-intensive services are creating increasing value for the economy, driving and taking advantage of technological progress. Low tech, labour-intensive manufacturing and routine jobs in service sectors are being disrupted. http://eusic.challenges.org/


These projects and ideas shall include innovations in tools, services and models to equip people with the appropriate skills and opportunities to compete in changing economies (the latter is becoming more digital). For example, the Commission suggested the following trends: 


= Using digital technologies and business models to reduce inequality (for the Baltic States it is of greater importance than in other EU states);

= Empowering disadvantaged people to gain from employment and/or entrepreneurship; 

= Equipping those in danger of unemployment (or difficulties in finding place in labour market) with knowledge of creativity, communication and problem-solving;

= Supporting and protecting low wage/inappropriate skills’ workers in the evolving/changing labour market.


Of course, some of the mentioned issues are part of the states’ social policies, but the empowering connections between the R&D and entrepreneurship is evident and important.  

Different social problems in the EU-28

It has to be mentioned that significant disparities among the EU states prevent from a unified approach to social development and solutions( for example, the three Baltic States are at the 60-65% level from other so-called core EU states).


In the Baltic Sea area, the Nordic economic model demonstrates that a high degree of labor market flexibility and social welfare systems do not have to be mutually exclusive; indeed, they can actually be combined to very good effect. This type of economic policy also enables countries to invest in innovation, childcare, education and training.


The Scandinavian countries, which underwent a similar banking crisis in the 1990s (which is still going on in some Western economies), have shown that by reforming regulation and social welfare systems, flexible labor and capital markets are really compatible with social responsibility.


So it is no coincidence that these countries are now among the most competitive economies in the world. See: “Nordic’s economic model for Baltic States to emulate”, in:



Different level of social progress makes it difficult to find a common denominator in approached to social innovations. For example, a project of creating an innovative app, where everyone can register their leftover medicines and find those who need them through a smartphone sounds good. However, in the Nordic states this is done through a sophisticated social medical service with widespread and affordable medicines.     


As a heard from friends, the best “innovation” in Latvia would be opening public toilets at the railway stations in Jurmala (Latvian resort and maritime region) or make waste collection more optimal. 


Finally, “social planning” could be a strategic agenda for the Baltic States. Some 3-4 priorities shall be underlined and put to active implementation: action is a business strategy, worries aren’t. 

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