Social innovation project faces criticism
If all goes well, the Flemish government will today give its approval for a new kid on the innovations block: the Social Innovation Factory. Social innovation is one of Flemish innovation minister Ingrid Lieten’s SP.A hobbyhorses and features as one of the six ‘innovation hubs’ or key domains of the Flemish innovation policy. The Social Innovation Factory is set to promote social entrepreneurship in domains such as poverty, diversity, the ageing population, urbanisation and climate issues. It has however received considerable criticism from both the opposition and other majority parties like the CD&V and N-VA, who rejected Lieten’s previous proposal for a social innovation project. Subsequently the council of ministers requested to submit another version. Progress was made during the political talks on the subject last night, but whether her proposal will be approved today remains to be seen. Whatever the case, the establishment of a new innovation player will be hard to reconcile with some of the recommendations made by the Flemish Council for Science and Innovation and remarks by Professor Luc Soete about the complex and fragmented nature of the innovation landscape in his evaluation of this landscape in Flanders in April this year. His report proposed a 20% synergy saving in the sector. The new project might also meet with considerable criticism in the Flemish Parliament as both the CD&V and N-VA are critical of the concept of ‘social innovation’. Flemish CD&V party leader in the Flemish parliament, Koen Van den Heuvel, has openly asked whether this sort of project should receive priority during a time of budgetary cuts. Flemish opposition member Lode Vereeck LDD sees the criticism of the coalition partners as a sign that the Social Innovation Factory is already dead even before its birth, and believes the proposal is contradictory to the philosophy of competence poles, which forms the foundation of Lieten’s innovation policy and is based on the principle of marketing innovative ideas.