Applying Open Innovation in the PA: the INPS case

A (successful) startupper at the head of INPS’s Innovation and Digital Transformation department. Are these the first steps of the PA towards Open Innovation?

Vincenzo Di Nicola, successful co-founder of some well-known startups on the international insurance market with important exits behind him, was chosen by INPS to implement a change of strategy in terms of innovation.

We have often talked about how to innovate in the company and how the innovation model must be at the basis of business strategies, not just a marketing lever.

Thats is probably the reason behind INPS’s choice to entrust innovation to a professional who, with his startups, has been able to create new services that have become mass consumption. As we have often said, innovation starts with people , company culture, and all teams’ involvement. Also in the Public Administration.

We can see the PA as a large organization that, instead of having the sole purpose of making a profit, aims to provide services to citizens that can generate well-being for the community.

Di Nicola is just the beginning of a phase of cultural renewal that (we hope) can embrace the whole PA, starting from people to trigger a path of adoption of processes and mindset typical of the startup .

This will certainly allow INPS to manage innovation projects with the flexibility and openness (to collect stimuli and ideas or to start virtuous collaborations) typical of a fledgling company, integrating innovation into its strategic objectives and adopting a much more challenger of the future.

What steps forward have been made?

In the Digital Transformation process started by Di Nicola, the theme of open source software immediately took hold . In fact, in March 2021, the Social Security Institute released the source codes of some internal software with the aim of stimulating a virtuous mechanism of sharing and collaboration in which the PA can generate resources not only for itself, but for all. other administrations and private individuals, eventually creating more efficient solutions for the citizen.

With this novelty, it will be possible for other parties to leverage this basis to develop further applications, without having to design some essential components for digital applications from scratch and saving on investment in resources.

The ‘ open source is now a very widespread practice in many companies wanting to invest in innovation. Just think of Mozilla Firefox, one of the first internet browsers completely entrusted to a community of sviluppator who continue to support Mozilla updating the popular interface. However, it is an absolute novelty that an Italian PA has released open source software.

Can we be satisfied?

Actually no. Even if this news is encouraging, it must nevertheless be noted that we are still far from a complete application of all the Open Innovation logics compared to other European countries.

Suffice it to say that in a recent interview Martin Curley , Head of Innovation of the HSE (the Irish Health Service), exposed all the logics that (for two years now) have normally been applied to the work of the Irish PA. This is an almost complete approach to Open Innovation that makes use of all the main tools of this methodology to stimulate the openness of the mindset of public administration personnel , a path that, after a few years of application, is giving its important fruits.

To give an example of how Curley managed to spread in a short time a culture of innovation extended to all its resources, let’s consider the new organization of personnel in small “agile” teams that are now able to deal with the startup ecosystem and test digital solutions proposed by third parties in an agile and lean way.

In this way, the HSE managed to open 20 Hubs throughout the country, creating a meeting point between PA and startups and between these two actors and the third parties with which collaboration opportunities should be created, in full spirit Open Innovation .

PA and Open Innovation in Italy: will we reach these results too?

Clearly, that of INPS is only a first step for the complete opening of the Public Administration to the Open Innovation tools that we have often mentioned.

However, this signal gives hope that our country will soon tackle the issue with more dedication, imposing strategic choices extended to all fields of application. An approach that fits perfectly into the Next Generation EU European strategy aimed at creating wealth for the next generations.

In this massive package of measures, with an unprecedented allocation of economic resources, Europe wants to create stimulating opportunities to emerge from the pandemic with a set of well-defined objectives.

Among these emerges, precisely, a focus on innovation and the digital transition of the Public Administration which guarantees economic resources to all Member States that have to face this path of renewal.

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