Initiatives fostering innovation skills through non-formal learning (September 2020)
The ability to explore new ideas, to apply creative approaches, and to devise original solutions to problems is essential to adapt to the changing needs of professional and social life. This is even more important at times of economic downturn, when innovation skills (such as curiosity, critical and lateral thinking, problem solving and experimentation) can sustain young people’s employability and social inclusion.
EU Member States have committed to support young people’s creativity, innovative capacity and talent through formal education and non-formal learning. The Youth Employment Support package and the European Skills Agenda renew this pledge by recommending re- and up-skilling to reinforce young Europeans’ capacity for innovation and thus their social and professional integration.
Innovation is commonly included in formal education, as either a specific or a cross-curricular subject. For that reason, the map focuses on national initiatives in the context of non-formal learning.
Two-thirds of countries report that national authorities organise and/or fund projects aiming at fostering the innovation capacity of young people.
One of the most common initiatives are grants for developing innovative projects. For example, the Austrian “EureProjekte” makes available funds to young people who have a project idea, in addition to offering guidance through all project’s phases. Similarly, young people in Spain can benefit from grants from the “Young Talent Programme” and the “Young Creation Programme”.
Another way to help develop innovation skills is the creation of networks of public and private actors. This the approach chosen by the Flemish Community of Belgium that founded a network of Academies in the field of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (the “STEM Academy Network”). The network offers extracurricular activities on innovation in science and technology for children and youth.
Innovation contests and awards are also common across European countries. In Germany, the “Youth IT Competition” sees children and young people compete in algorithmic thinking and coding. “MIXED UP”, a national competition in cultural education, awards prizes to projects combining innovation and sustainability.