21 April 2022

The 21st of April, World Creativity and Innovation Day is designated to raise awareness of the role of creativity and innovation in all aspects of human development. We spoke with Jose Miguel Esteban, Innovation Manager at FI Group, who is committed to a broader vision of the concept of innovation applicable to all sectors, not “only in new developments scientific or those projects with a high technological component”. As such, Belgium also proves that investing in different sectors of innovation is the way to go towards the future. 

“Innovation is going to be more necessary to survive and be competitive” 

Jose Miguel Esteban, Innovation Manager at FI Group

What would you claim on the World Day of Creativity and Innovation? 

On the occasion of World Creativity and Innovation Day, I would like to reclaim the concept of innovation in its broadest meaning. On many occasions, we associate innovation only with new scientific developments or with a high technological component, when innovation is not only that. In this sense, I like the definition that the COTEC Foundation makes of innovation because it makes the meaning of innovation very clear from a holistic point of view: “Innovation is all change (not only technological) based on knowledge (not only scientific) that generates value (not only economic)”. 

In addition, although Innovation and creativity are usually presented together, they have different meanings and functions. Creativity is an imaginative process and innovation a productive process; which means that ideas are created in the first and changes are introduced in the second. 

What would you ask of the innovation ecosystem? 

We are experiencing a historic moment with the European program Next Generation EU. This is a unique opportunity to manage the crisis and channel the transformation of our economy, through a new production model that pivots on the axes of the plan: digitization, ecological transition, social and territorial cohesion and equality. 

For this, there must be real collaboration between the entire innovation ecosystems. This is what I ask of the ecosystem, an efficient and oiled machine both between the public and private sectors, as well as between companies and sectors, for responsible and efficient use of available funds. 

What are the keys to innovation in a company? 

Innovation allows companies to interact in a highly dynamic and competitive world in which it is necessary to be at the forefront and continuously achieve competitive advantages. 

There are no great formulas to initiate and maintain innovation within organizations. It is only necessary to define and use your own innovation system, with the following common elements: innovative culture, innovation strategy, leadership, and processes and tools to use. 

To achieve adaptation to this innovative process, how could FI Group help you? 

At FI Group we help organizations to manage the financing of their R&D&I and the management of their innovation, through the design and implementation of actions to enhance their technological and economic development. These actions, focused on the comprehensive treatment of tax incentives for R+D+i and the management of calls for public aid and subsidies, result in an improvement in the income statement of companies. 

Do you believe in innovation as an obligation to reinvent yourself in the future? 

We live in times of great uncertainty. Fortunately for our society, victory in the war we are waging against the COVID-19 pandemic seems ever closer. But this uncertainty has also caused an acceleration in digital progress in the business fabric and in the way we relate to each other, for several months or years. 

With this level of uncertainty and the movements that are taking place, innovation will be more necessary than ever to survive and be competitive. 

Do you think that innovation is missing until well into adulthood? How would you promote it at school age? 

Indeed, I believe that innovation and creativity should be promoted more in school ages, facilitating both individual and collective level, the questioning and search for alternatives, in a continuous way. I also believe that more collaborations should be sought between the educational sector and the industrial sector, which would promote an innovative spirit from an early age

Inclusion within the innovation ecosystem 

The only solution to respond to the main challenges that lie ahead is an innovation carried out collaboratively between different agents of the ecosystem, national and international. 

Belgium as an innovative leader 

Years of joint efforts by knowledge institutions, companies and governments are paying off: Belgium (4th out of 27 member states) and Flanders (27th out of 240 regions) belong to the group of ‘innovation leaders’ within the EU.  

The European Innovation Scoreboard (EIS) ranks the 27 EU Member States and several non-EU countries to their research and innovation strength based on their performance relative to the European average. 

The research looks at, among other things, investment in new technology, public-private partnerships, quality of research and employment in innovative companies. 

Regional Innovation Strategies 

In 2020, it is the first time that Belgium reaches the European target of investing 3% of the GDP (the market value of all goods and services produced in one year) in research and development. Because innovation is a regional matter, each of the three has its own framework to stimulate innovation which results in different focus points throughout different sectors. 

The Flemish region had an R&D&I expenditure of 3.35% of the GDP. With a budget of 3.016 billion euro to allocate towards scientific research and innovation, the main sectors benefiting are: 

The Walloon region had an R&D&DI expenditure of 3,4% of the GDP. With 609 million euro in budget, R&D&I is mostly invested in the following sectors: 

The Brussels Capital Region has an R&D&I expenditure of 2.9% of the GDP. Its R&D&DI activities mainly lie within: 

  • Climate & Energy 
  • Resource optimization 
  • Mobility 
  • Sustainable Food 
  • Health & well-being 
  • Participatory & Inclusive Society 

SMEs and large enterprises can obtain subsidies when it comes to innovation and R&D in the three different regions. Each has its own designated body: Agency Innoveren & Ondernemen, Wallonie.be, and Innoviris.

The different subsidies support R&D&I trajectories and projects. FI Group advises and supports you in making the best choice regarding your subsidy.

FI Group has 20 years of experience and wants to support you in understanding and intercepting the available R&D+I opportunities. Our experts are at your disposal to analyse your project and to take the next steps together with you.

Begoña Espina Bañuls 

Yvette Poumpalova 

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