Social and sustainable entrepreneurship and innovation - Summary article of the webinar

This webinar kicked off the next generation of the University-Business Cooperation (UBC) network which the Commission has been running for more than ten years. The webinar brought together representatives from academia and the business world all over Europe to discuss key challenges and opportunities for UBC. Over 50 participants, including policymakers, representatives from higher education institutions (HEIs), companies, business associations and civil society explored social and sustainable development and innovation, also considering the consequences of technological innovations for the European labour market. The webinar focused on the following three questions: 

  • What are the implications for skills investments in different scenarios for job and skill needs till 2030 in the automation industries? What are the potential threats for labour market participation caused by new technological innovations and changes such as artificial intelligence?
  • Which sustainability issues are most important? Do environmental concerns vary in different parts of the world? How are sustainability issues related to each other?
  • The “Green Transition” represent one of the largest challenges faced by society now and for the coming generations. What are the opportunities of addressing such challenge in terms of breakthrough innovations, new venture creation, as well as demanding and fostering new collaborations and partnerships internationally and often in a cross-sectoral environment?

Fiona Godsman, Chief Executive of the Scottish Institute of Enterprise, moderated the webinar. 

The first presentation was given by Raymond Montizaan, Research Leader and Associate Professor at Maastricht University, and Cornelia Suta, Project Manager at Cambridge Econometrics, are both involved in the Horizon 2020 funded Technequalityproject, which focuses on understanding how technological innovations affect work, education and inequality. They presented the latest research on labour forecasting scenarios for automation risks by computing scenarios (by country, sector, and occupation) to understand the potential impact of automation on jobs in Europe until 2030. The extent of penetration of automation in industries and occupations and the speed at which automation will penetrate the economy are the key determinants of the three scenarios considered. Depending on the scenario considered, they estimated number of jobs lost across the EU ranges from 12.5 million to 106.6 million.

They also presented the results of a field experiment performed during the COVID-19 pandemic to help shed more light on the effectiveness of artificial intelligence (AI) and the potential threats this might cause for participation in the labour market. The findings showed a drop in productivity of employees as the number of AI applications available increased. The findings also showed that the perception of customers on the personal effort of employees decreased due to the additional distractions introduced by AI applications when interacting with the costumers. In conclusion, they reminded the audience of the unexpected results that AI can cause. As highlighted by the results of the experiment, while AI is expected to increase productivity, it can also have the opposite effect.

The second presentation was given by Dr Frans Stel, Managing Consultant at CreateNewBusiness, Senior Research Associate at the University of Twente (NL) and Visiting Professor at Yamaguchi University (Japan), is one of the academic leaders of the Erasmus+ funded Scale-up for Sustainability (S4S) project. S4S aims to develop innovative business models and new teaching modules in green venturing, and to see whether priorities of sustainability differ across values and how these priorities relate to personality traits, social attitudes, and environmental concerns. The programme developed an integrative understanding of critical success factors needed to implement sustainable development. As part of the programme, students across the globe have invented new innovative ideas and gave a start to implementation.

Mikkel Trym is co-founder of joint university-business innovations centres in Copenhagen and gave the third presentation. He is the entrepreneurial lead for the EIT Climate-KIC Accelerator Programme in the Nordic countries. The EIT’s Climate KIC is a European knowledge and innovation community working to accelerate the transition to a carbon-zero economy. Mikkel presented insights regarding the path towards “green transitions”, based on his role as entrepreneurial lead for the EIT Climate-KIC Accelerator Programme. He emphasized the speed towards this transition needs to be speed up and be accompanied by strong political commitment over the next 10 years. The next phase in the transition is to unlock the potential that lays in the most. He further discussed the role of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and the mutual benefits for collaboration between business and HEIs towards the green transition. UBC can promote a flow and exchange of business skills and access to investors on the one hand, and access to resources such as data, equipment, and networks on the other.

You can watch the edited recording of the webinar here.