Sport & innovation: quo vadis?

Pubblicato il 24 Ago 2019

Starting with this article we open collaboration with Trentino Sviluppo – Area Marketing Strategico (progetto Cluster Sport) to explore how the world of the sports industry is evolving and innovating thru technology and new business models. 

The philosophy of this space

The origins of this rubric on Sport & Innovation are rooted in conversations but also in a global recognition: we are facing a new world, increasingly complex and inter-connected for social, economic and environmental matters – and the world of sport is not an island, an exception or an isolated space. In fact, sport mirrors society and society reflect in sport the international disruption of our contemporary age. The “Fourth Industrial Revolution” might be only at the beginning, as Klaus Schwab (Founder and Chairman of the World Economic Forum) redefined it in an article written only in 2015, but the acceleration of ideas is inherent in the world of sport.

In this column, we wish to reflect with a forward-looking perspective on the past, present and – mostly – future of the sport. Innovation and Sport are twins – we believe – in our common journey. Innovation is not a silo in an organizational structure, but a Weltanschauung, a world view and a philosophy of life in the current world we are living in.

There are many enlightened individuals, organizations, and publications which start to think through this perspective. We might not have all the answers, but we have a few questions. We believe we could articulate them publicly in order to give order to disorder: we do not wish to crystallize scientific truths in this space, as there are too few truths in a world where “it is no longer the big fish eating the small fish – but it’s the fast fish eating the slow wish” (attributed to Klaus Schwab). We wish, however, to challenge the orthodoxy, the conventional wisdom and a few sacred cows of modernity.

With this philosophy in mind, we begin our collaboration with, because we would like to enlighten and highlight a few elements in the current debate, correct a few misunderstanding and articulate together a view for the future.

Sport & Numbers? An Archimedean point!

While we have tried to do our homework, read a multiplicity of papers, interrogated the literature, we discovered that there are few – may be too few, but there are a few – Archimedean points on sport (and innovation).

Sport keeps not only you but also industry fit” was the title of a report elaborated by the European Commission in 2014. In the Memo, the European Commission calculated the economic value of the sports economy and it equaled – the report suggested – almost 3% of the EU GDP (equivalent to 294 billion Euro) and 3.5% of the EU workforce (equivalent to 7.3 million employees). This is quite something as an economic aggregate, as it is believed to be a “driver to growth”, which has been resilient in the Great Economic Crisis which has started in 2007/2008 and which has a multiplier effect in terms of innovation potential.

These numbers are reflected also in the public documents of the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) & ISTAT but also in the publication by Comitato Leonardo “Sport & Imprese: Play Together, Win Together” and in the recent analysis of Assosport. The reports quoted here clearly illustrate how the world of sport is a driver for business and an Archimedean point.

Sport & Innovation – a (few) perspective(s)

In this last section, we wish to ask whether sport is ready for the “Fourth Industrial Revolution”, what is the place for innovation in sport and we wish to do so by basing our perspective on a few international reports (we encourage the readers who wish to deepen their knowledge to investigate further by clicking on their respective links).

The International Olympic Committee is facing a process of reform under the leadership of President Thomas Bach under the flagship initiatives, “Agenda 2020” and the “New Norm”; and the European Union has launched a “Smart Specialisation Platform on Industry Modernisation” focused on Sport, called ClusSport.

Most of all, the ASOIF has launched a reflection with a publication called “The Future of Global Sport” (2019) where it questions the foundations of International Federations, calls for a new balance between Governance and Entrepreneurialism and adventures courageously into the new era of the sport. Specialized actors within the sports landscape, like the Sports Innovation Lab, presented its view with the research “A New Age of Sports” (2019) and PwC asked whether “Sports industry: lost in transition?” (2018). These are fundamental questions that need to be asked – not only in the sports world but also in the innovation world. For this reason, in order to ask questions, we have launched a public reflection here on Through these publications and through these ideas we will be able to navigate the complex world of social, economic and environmental challenges. But these questions need to be asked – and we might try through a (few) Archimedean point(s) to elevate the public reflection – if not the world of sport…

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