ETPO – Emerging Technology Policy Observatory

Universities and innovation agencies at the core of local innovation systems via LPWAN

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I have been visiting some universities around Europe that have launched LPWAN-centric initiatives. The common objective is to use LPWAN as an enabler of ideas for local SMEs and local governments. The results are really promising. The enthusiasm is contagious. Basically, LPWAN revamps the mission of universities to be an enabler for social and economic development for the areas in which they are located.

The Triple Helix Model (https://triplehelix.stanford.edu/3helix_concept) for innovation has highlighted the driving role of universities for promoting innovation, and therefore from a Schumpeterian point of view, for promoting economic growth. The Entrepreneurial University is a key concept in the Triple Helix Model conceptualising the university as a producer of knowledge, but also a user of knowledge for innovation purposes. That model is then linked to geographic-centric view of innovation such as regional innovation systems or local innovation system. LPWAN enables universities to be the Entrepreneurial Universities of local innovation systems, and, even further to social innovation systems when LPWAN is used to respond to citizens’ needs. LPWAN seen as enabler of social innovation is also highlighted in the recent call from Digital Catapult on social housing and independent living (https://www.digitalcatapultcentre.org.uk/open-calls/lpwan-solutionsphase2/). Digital Catapult is not an university, but an innovation agency, which could have the same strong role in local innovation systems empowering innovation at SME and local government levels. LPWAN is an ideal technology for that. But, policy makers should support more this view of technology, a view coming from the needs of citizens and SMEs rather than from the top of the business system. The two directions are equally important, but, historically, SME technology policy has chased technological trends rather than being part of it. Instead, LPWAN could take SMEs, citizens, and local authorities to the core of the current developments of the Internet of Things. Universities and innovation agencies can drive that.

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