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  • José Manuel Leceta: ''Convictions create realities''

José Manuel Leceta: ''Convictions create realities''

First message: Innovation is ultimately about people. Inspired by MIT, the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) is not a university but an institute crystallizing Europe’s political will to approach innovation in a fundamentally different way and with increased focus on people as change agents. To do so, EIT tries to energize the concept of ‘innovation power to people’.

  • José Manuel Leceta

Why this focus on people?

-       Innovation is often associated with science and science with laboratories, meaning that we forget the human side of things.

-       On the other hand, ‘science’ and ‘innovation’ have traditionally been understood as the natural ‘division of labour’ between academia and industry. And ‘collaborative research’ the bridge between both worlds. In other words, collaboration has been ‘institutional’ while individuals from both sides intersected in projects and progress meetings, with everyone keeping a relative affiliation.

Why change needs to accelerate?

-       Maybe the crisis is lasting too long; governments and institutions may be showing some signs of ‘fatigue’ and public budgets cannot bear the whole brunt. But citizens and societies cannot give up, and if the future is in the hands of the younger generation, then youngsters in particular cannot and will not accept that there is no future.

-       Fortunately today, we see trends which announce in my view a different paradigm, e.g. universities becoming mobile through Internet, private investment in digital education and ‘corporate incubators’ financed by former ‘natural monopolies’, large companies that reinvent themselves from the inside, etc. 


Second message: Entrepreneurship is a ‘contact sport’ that can be nurtured

-       On the one hand, successful new ventures require complementary expertise and individuals. Great teams make great ventures. However, they need to be working closely together.

-       On the other, as the Hungarian philosopher Michael Polanyi said ‘we know more than what we can tell’; even in the age of Internet, personal contact is vital: part of the (tacit) knowledge goes with the persons.

-       Consequently, entrepreneurship is an attitude that can be nurtured. Moreover, it is mostly contagious, through story-telling and testimonies of people having done it before. 

In this arena, Europe has all the ingredients for success. We have top universities, world-class research centres and a vibrant industrial fabric with large and dynamic SMEs. 

But we have too many silos and not the right attitude. And both academia and industry should engage with society!

- If we want to educate a future society for the better, we obviously need to mobilise the universities, make them more entrepreneurial, by nurturing talent and educating not only future employees and professors but, more importantly, also future employers and team builders!

- In EIT we integrate the ‘knowledge triangle’ of higher education, research and business to foster ‘interconnected ecosystems’.


Third message: Entrepreneurial innovation is a journey

To conclude, even with individuals and ecosystems, with ideas and reality surrounding you, everyone will have to find their own way. Because ‘entrepreneurial innovation’ is “learning by doing”, like life, the radical principle of existence for the Spanish philosopher Ortega y Gasset. 

You can face any journey as a challenge or an opportunity, with fear or joy. Surprise, surprise: enjoying is the smartest way. Why? Because there is no success without passion, no passion without pleasure. In other words, enjoying is maximizing your chances of success!

The good news is that the human brain is the best compass to help us navigate through life, if we are sincere and confidentin ourselves. Or, if you want, by being and believing in ourselves. Convictions create realities.

In conclusion, we human beings have the incredible power to anticipate and — largely — to build the future, to have great ideas and to be better people. I often hear young people, in particular, say that their dream is to make the world a better place, and that strikes me as frankly encouraging.

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