Dr. David Nordfors won the Swedish Bay Area Achievement Award for Most Beneficial Exchange. He won for his work in innovation journalism at Stanford University. For several years the Innovation Journalism Fellowships have helped improve networks and strengthened a long lasting relationship among journalists in Silicon Valley, Sweden and other countries.
By: Katarina Bennich
The Swedish Bay Area Achievement Award is an annual prize, celebrating and honoring the people who further Swedish culture and business in the Bay Area. The jury’s decision to give the prize to Dr. Nordfors was based primarily on his success in combining two different fields—the academic with the business world. The recognition was also for his great achievement in promoting Sweden and his continual efforts to improve the bonds and commerce between Sweden and the U.S.
Dr. Nordfors is the co-founder and executive director of the Stanford Center for Innovation and Communication. He started the first innovation journalism initiatives in Sweden in 2003, the same year he coined the concept of "Innovation Journalism." The following year he moved to Silicon Valley, California, to start establishing the concept and developing the community of Innovation Journalism.
When he first started, he Googled the term "Innovation journalism." He then got no hits. Today it gets over 533,000. But what does Innovation Journalism really mean?
The core of the project is to encourage journalists in Sweden and elsewhere to develop expertise in covering how innovation happens. That is one area normally not covered in the newspapers—instead they focus on politics, science, economy, technology, culture and business. Innovation journalism and the process of innovation cover a combination of all these fields, thus requiring a change in the world of journalism. By following the process of innovation you can say something about the future. According to Dr. Nordfors, innovation is “the process of creating and introducing new value to society."
"Innovation will often affect people's life to a greater extent than, for example, much new legislation," he says. "It has a greater impact on everyone’s lives—just look at what the iPhone has done."
The world is changing. People form their opinion of the world to a great extent from the media. And it is the media’s responsibility to report how the world is changing and to give the people a chance to shape their way of life. Journalists have a key position in maintaining democracy and pushing for debate. If something is not covered by independent journalism it may end up outside the frame of democracy. Dr. Nordfors believes that in order to survive, journalism needs to reinvent itself—continuously.
"I realized that communication was a key component for innovation," says Dr. Nordfors. "Without communication there is no way to motivate politicians or for stockholders to invest their money. The innovation of the Internet is one good example: 20 years after it was invented, less than 1 percent of the population was actually using it."
Dr. Nordfors’ resume is impressive and diverse. He has participated in some very prominent forums, is an adjunct professor, advisor, visiting professor, the original science editor of the largest IT magazine in Sweden, the first director of research funding the Knowledge Foundation, a senior media advisor and a member of the advisory board and several other non-academic organizations, and he has a long list of publications.
Dr. Nordfors’ background is somewhat surprising considering his current occupation. He started off with a PhD in molecular quantum physics. It was after several years that he made the transition into journalism.
Dr. Nordfors moved to the U.S. in January 2004. He lived in Germany and Israel before that. Moving to the U.S was a life altering experience. The differences were bigger then he could ever have imagined.
"In a way, we grow up with America in Sweden," he says. "I realized that everything looks the same as it did in the American television series I watched growing up, but in reality, it is very different."
Dr. Nordfors appreciates the open-minded attitude in the U.S. and that people encourage new ideas. In Sweden the work environment is more cynical. There is a bigger acceptance here, there is no right or wrong. There are also things that Dr. Nordfors appreciates in Sweden, job security for example. In the U.S., it doesn't matter how good you are or how great your education is, you always have to have a plan B.
Dr. Nordfors has a special love for his workplace: Stanford. He says, "Stanford is as great as it looks, I am jealous of the students who get to attend."
The award at the Swedish Bay Area Achievement Award means a lot to Dr. Nordfors.
"It was amazing to win the award," he says. "When I first came to Silicon Valley as part of the VINNOVA program we were the first to invest in free independent journalism as a part of the innovation economy. The idea was brand new and there were no established practices or knowledge within the field. As always with groundbreaking approaches, it takes time to become accepted. Today we have a Stanford Center and this award truly shows that we have succeeded."