Soft Innovation

www.nesta.org.uk/report/soft-innovation/
Skip to content

Soft Innovation

Soft Innovation assesses the importance to the UK of aesthetic, or 'soft', innovation.

Soft Innovation assesses the importance to the UK of aesthetic, or 'soft', innovation.

Key findings

  • Soft innovation is a concept that reflects aesthetic changes
  • To concentrate only on technological innovation while ignoring soft innovation provides only a limited and biased account of total innovation
  • There are high rates of soft innovation in the creative industries, though it is significant outside the creative industries too
  • The commercial benefits of soft innovation may be very high; government intervention could be justified, especially when it comes to intellectual property rights as an area for policy
  • However, government policy must embrace all innovative activity, not just technological or scientific

 

In this report, the economist Paul Stoneman uncovers a picture of rapid innovative change of an aesthetic nature – what he terms ‘soft innovation’. He argues that current government policy distorts the economy by supporting innovation of a technological and functional nature, and neglecting innovation of a 'soft' kind.

 

In the creative industries, Professor Stoneman points to estimates suggesting very high and increasing rates of soft innovation: for example, about one-half of the titles in the UK Top 40 album chart change each month. And the bestselling video games now spend on average less than three weeks at the No. 1 position.

 

This report argues for an overhaul of innovation policy to recognise soft innovation alongside innovation of a technological nature.