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The perception of changes, an open window to new opportunities

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The Center for sustainable energy and technologies in Ningbo - China

Yesterday, I was listening on the radio that the last car was produced in the Opel assembly plant of Antwerpen in Belgium. This is the consequence of the General Motors bankruptcy and the related restructuring process. The Flemish Regional government tried to make lobbying to find another partner to buy the business in order to save a local production, but also to save jobs. On another way, I was reading an article published in the Spanish newspaper El Pais and translated in the Courrier International, that the Silicon Valley, symbol of new technologies and entrepreneurship, was moving his activity in the green technologies. I was wondering why it seems that some countries seem to be always in advance in term of innovation. There are probably many factors to explain such differences.

It is obvious that we are living in a fast moving environment. These fast changes imply to have a long-term view. Changes are sometimes slow but ongoing processes, but we only perceive then at a certain moment. If for instance, you plant a tree in your garden, and you are looking to it everyday, you will not perceive that the tree is growing a bit every day. It is after few weeks or months that you will suddenly notice the tree grew significantly. What is interesting to know is if it is the change which is not always easily perceptible, or is it our mind which don’t want to change of vision easily. Are our mind progressive or conservative? It depends of each of us and we need probably more or less time to integrate new ideas, new paradigms. Does this break of perception, linked to a culture difference, explain that some countries are more innovative than other? This is an interesting question underlining different important aspects, in which governments could have a key role to play.

As said, a sustainable economical development needs a long-term view. Some well performing industries will not be anymore in few years, because the economical environment is changing. It is important to predict what will be the long-term changes, based on what we can observe today, in order to develop appropriate policies to ensure these developments. Let us take the example of Belgium. This country was known during many years as a country where car manufacturers were investing. The car manufacturing industry was bringing a lot of jobs, and these factories were appreciated for the productivity and qualification of people. It was of course a good source of revenues for the State, and as far as everything is fine, we do not look further to what could be happen. But since many years, like in most of western countries, the employment in such factories was decreasing, and companies began to invest in countries where the manpower was cheaper than in western countries. The trend seemed to be obvious. These industries were not expanding their activities in our countries. Our economy is changing and needs transformation. Some elements are necessary to implement such transformation. But are our governments supporting enough the economy renewal implementation? Let us take another example, when by the past, the Belgian Government allowed huge intervention to save the metalwork industry, but like the automotive industry, the size of the production plants and the jobs did not stop to decrease. Was it a good initiative to sustain a declining industry sector in our country? It was probably a good initiative on a short-term basis in order to save jobs, but not on a long-term basis. It would probably be better to allocate budgets to develop new fields of economy and to give incentives for research and development programs.

Since few years now, a lot of local initiatives are taken in order to sustain the development of new economical projects. The question is to know if the efforts and incentive done by the governments to stimulate the innovation and the creation of new economical development fields are sufficient, and if such measures are not coming too late? Is this the result of a too conservative view of our world? Ilya Prigogine, Nobel price in chemical sciences, was used to say that we have to build the present time, based on the experience of the past and by anticipation of the future. If we have a look to the past, we can note that everything has changed, and that there is no reason why this process should stop. This is a reason why we have to be aware about each change, each trend we can see. We have to consider these changes as an open window to new opportunities and challenges. It is a question of mind, of vision about our world, to be able to change of paradigm and to think out of the box. It is obvious that by mentioning this, we underline the importance of education and the qualification level of people. Knowledge and capabilities are the raw material of innovation and development. A strong and sustainable economy can only be build with a performing education system, and by encouraging people to acquire a culture based on adaptability, and considering changes as a opened window to new opportunities and challenges.

 

 

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Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

December 16, 2010 at 22:04

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