It is already been observed how public debate and policymaking in several fields such as science have been making significant impact. Thanks to the regular survey which has helped to keep them informed to a large extent. But when it comes to talking about people’s interest on innovation or government policy on innovation, only very little can be said because not much research has been carried out on the public opinions on innovation both in the UK and in other parts of the world.
To this end, Nesta thought it needful to perform an extensive research on the attitudes of people within the UK to innovation and policies on innovation. This large-scale quantitative and qualitative survey which has yielded striking results was carried out in collaboration with ComRes. Based on the obtained results three groups of people with various opinions on innovation were identified.
The first was a relatively small group of people who are actually enthusiastic about now technologies and innovation but they’re more or less uninterested about how they will transform the future. They are disproportionately affluent and male and can be 1 in 5 people. However, this does not imply that the majority of the population is Luddites or technophobes.
Clustered into 3 segments, are the largest group that make about two-thirds of the population. These are the people who happened to be enthusiastic about technology. The research findings also indicate that these groups clearly portrayed questions about the downsides of innovation, such as the environmental impact of excessive gadgets and the impact of internet on social life.
There was another group of people that were more than enthusiastically concerned about innovation. According to the research, they were pessimistic about the impact of technology on the society and their welfare. However, this group was disproportionately female and less affluent.
The importance of this research can be observed in two ways:
- First, by providing relevant information about the attitudes of people and their preferences, it can go a long way in helping to inform subsequent debates on the impacts of innovation and its beneficiaries.
- Second, policymakers can now have something to fall back to from the message it brings.
Some important benefits have also been derived from this research, such as the establishment of relevant bodies like the Technology Strategy Board and the maintenance of a reasonably good spending settlement for scientific research by the government.
However, there is the need of funding more innovation. As a matter of fact, politicians need to stop talking to those who hold innovation to be self-evidently worthwhile – i.e. those innovation enthusiasts who are only just 1 in 5 people – and start letting larger audiences know more about innovation. In other words, it’s time to make innovation high on the party political agenda.
As a matter of fact, they need to start talking about the benefits innovation brings for the consumer, the society, and the world at large and not just for its own sake.