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Opening up to an era of social innovation

Jointly organised by the European Commission, the Portuguese Government and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation

Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner for Research, Science and InnovationMarianne Thyssen, European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour MobilityMaria Manuel Leitão Marques, Minister of the Presidency and of Administrative Modernisation of Portugal, and Isabel Mota, President of Calouste Gulbenkian Foundationare hosting the conference.

What is Social Innovation?

“Social innovations are innovations that are social in both their ends and their means. Specifically, […] social innovations [are] new ideas (products, services and models) that simultaneously meet social needs (more effectively than alternatives) and create new social relationships or collaborations. They are innovations that are not only good for society but also enhance society’s capacity to act.” according to the European Commission Bureau of European Policy Advisors (BEPA, 2011, p. 9).

Why is this conference needed?

As pointed out by President Juncker in his White Paper on the future of Europe, “the global financial and economic crisis that started in 2008 in the United States shook Europe to its core. Thanks to determined action, the EU economy is now back on a more stable footing with unemployment falling to its lowest level since the ‘great recession’ hit. However, the recovery is still unevenly distributed across society and regions. Addressing the legacy of the crisis, from long-term unemployment to high levels of public and private debt in many parts of Europe, remains an urgent priority.”

The reflection paper on the social dimension of Europe, published alongside the package on the European Pillar of Social Rights, highlights the profound transformations European societies and the world of work will undergo in the coming decade. It also sets out a number of options on how we can collectively respond, by building a Europe that protects, empowers and defends.

The European Union actively promotes social innovation and used it with success to reach policy goals. For instance, research and innovation policies have been supporting social innovation from 1998PDF icon) to the present benefiting people directly, in addition to advancing science and creating new value with ideas. Moreover, since 2010, the European Union has continued to open its funding programmes to innovative practices to deal with social and societal issues ranging from the Structural Funds to smaller more flexible programmes. In that spirit, a 2 million euro "Horizon prize" will be launched at the conference focussing on the mobility of older people.

The time has come to develop the new narrative further. So, the conference will take stock of social innovation today, review new trends in this vast domain, set the scene for lively and stimulating discussions, and promote networking among innovators, entrepreneurs, and other value creators driven by a social ideal.



Simply put, the conference aims to boost social innovation in Europe because social innovation is a good, cost-effective way to advance inclusive and wealth-creating public policies, by developing a new narrative and giving this new narrative the means to take root, grow, blossom and bear fruit.


The event seeks to bring together world-class scientists in the area of social innovation, innovators, social entrepreneurs, civil society representatives, national and regional policy makers, municipal and city level actors, social innovation funders, philanthropists, venture capitalists, business angels, students, and politicians.


The conference will be structured in the following manner:

  • Taking stock of social innovation achievements
  • Identifying potential future opportunities brought by social innovation not only in terms of societal well-being, but also of growth, jobs, and business development for Europe
  • Reviewing new trends in social innovation
  • Examining the possible role of social innovation in the next generation of public policies
  • Exploring funding instruments


For more information, the programme and registration, please see here.