Emeritus Professor Nick von Tunzelmann, University of
Sussex, Great Britain
Professor Urmas Varblane, University of Tartu
Professor Erik Terk, University of Tallinn
Jari Romanainen, Executive Policy Adviser, The Finnish
Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation
This research is about innovation in the public sector. In a time of on-going economic instability (which started with the 2007-2008 global financial crises), sovereign debt crises in Europe (but also elsewhere), aging societies, and almost non-growing developed economies together with unemployment, make continued cost cutting in the public sector inevitable. On the other hand, there is a growing need for maintaining service standards, to find radical solutions for complex challenges and effective ideas for development and growth. Therefore, public sector innovation becomes more crucial than ever before. The research question of the thesis asks what is the relative importance of different managerial and contextual factors influencing the innovation process in information technology-based public sector services and how do they determine the nature of public service innovation system? The research is based on a combination of theoretical foundations and an exploratory cross-country survey on technologically innovative public sector services in four European countries - the UK, Denmark, Finland and Estonia. The current research is one of the early case-based empirical and quantitative exercises (the survey originated from 2005) to study innovation in the public sector. The results of the survey were partly first published by Pärna and von Tunzelmann in 2007.
In addition to existing theoretical and empirical knowledge about innovation in the public sector, the research has four perspectives through which the sub-research questions and propositions are set up and the public sector innovation process is analysed. These are managerial, learning, technological and systems perspective. The research answers to the following sub-research questions: what are the key features influencing, supporting and hampering, the development and implementation of successful, technologically innovative public sector services (managerial perspective); which managerial and organisational improvements are necessary to innovate in public sector services (learning perspective); what is the importance of technological knowledge in the public service innovation process, where and how is it developed (technological perspective); and what does the composition and dynamics of public sector (service) innovation system look like across countries (systems perspective).
The main contribution of new knowledge of this thesis is four-fold. Firstly, the purposely developed theoretical framework that gives a structured approach how to understand and manage innovation in public sector services. Secondly, the new conceptual-methodological approach of how to study and analyse the innovation process in public service organisations. Thirdly, the hand-made list of public service innovations from four countries and the database of the survey results. Fourthly, the quantitative analysis and synthesis of the survey results which characterises the innovation process of public service organisations in the survey countries. As an important contribution, this thesis shows empirically how different internal and external forces and factors within the public service innovation system influence the innovation process and how they differ across countries. Research results contribute to the literature of public sector innovation and management as well as enrich academic and professional debates around these increasingly important topics. Additionally, contributions can also be drawn for economic theory, organisational theory, public administration and political science.
The results might be also useful for policy-makers and public service managers to successfully encourage and manage innovation in the public sector. Knowing the key features influencing the development and implementation of successful technologically innovative public sector services is a prerequisite in this process. The research also explores to what extent the innovation process differs between the public and private sectors and which managerial and organisational improvements are necessary to innovate in public sector services. Innovation-related learning in the public sector is also analysed in this research.