The private sector plays an essential role in the EU economy and the EC has identified SMEs and the promotion of entrepreneurship as essential to achieving Europe 2020 objectives, including becoming an 'Innovation Union'. The private sector is increasingly recognised as a direct driver itself of social innovation and more commonly as a facilitator through its increasing numbers of cross-sector collaborations, often driven by new approaches to corporate philanthropy and social responsibility, and the concept of shared-value models. SI intermediaries also often draw on private sector actors in delivering programmes and support to social innovators, and the private sector also inevitably shapes the wider ecosystem in which social innovators are operating. Additionally, the availability of new technologies and new forms of organising the production process are driving this transformation in sectors not intuitively associated to social innovation, such as the manufacturing industry. The private sector, and especially larger companies in the context of corporate social responsibility (CSR), can typically bring important strengths to social innovation initiatives in the form of finance, specialist expertise and scaling capacity. As CSR strategies become part of companies' business strategies, social innovation is understood and practiced by the private sector as a tool to pursue at the same time economic and social returns, ensuring long- term access to all the resources necessary to companies' success, from human capital to natural resources. Beyond CSR, "intrapreneurship" is gaining momentum among large companies as a way to anchor social innovation principles into corporate management and innovation strategies. This network will draw together representatives of the private sector from across Europe, with a focus on fostering partnerships between the private and the third and public sectors. We will tap into existing networks and communities that represent the diversity of the private sector and those most likely to engage with social innovation: SMEs; large corporates; CSR and innovation networks; and leadership networks.
Social innovation relevance
Systematically involving the private sector will allow us to investigate new dimensions of social innovation, and particularly at product and process level, highlighting the contribution that social innovation can make to foster EU companies' competitiveness as well as positive social impact.