Introduction to Transformative Innovation Policy Consortium
Co-ordinated by the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at the University of Sussex in the UK, the current members are innovation ministries and funding agencies from Colombia, Finland, Mexico, Norway, South Africa and Sweden. Additional, associated TIP initiatives include projects in China, Panama and Brazil.
TIPC is underpinned by recent work on the Three Frames of Innovation with Frame 3 being ‘Transformative Innovation Policy’ (Schot, Steinmueller 2018). Frame 1 refers to policies aimed at generating social benefits through R&D investment. While Frame 2 takes account of the systemic relationship between these investments, and the industrial and institutional framework of a country, the so-called National Systems of Innovation.
Frame three, ‘transformative innovation’ offers an emerging and fresh approach to thinking about the role of Science, technology and innovation policy in the implementation of these goals. Transformative Innovation is a policy framing that aims to contribute to addressing global challenges, as captured by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). An overarching ambition is to see the widespread adoption of new transformative innovation policies and practices across the globe.
Working together in a five year programme that mobilises empirical research, and combines it with policy experimentation; training; skills development; evaluation; and communications, TIPC is building constituencies behind transformative policies to allow up-scaling. This transdisciplinary approach is already generating new frameworks, standards and narratives and exploring novel ways to harness mutual policy learning between countries in the Global North and South.
three framings of innovation policy
THE FIRST FRAME OF INNOVATION: R&D AND REGULATION
The first framing portrayed innovation policy as providing incentives for the market to produce socially and economically desired levels of science knowledge (R&D). This is mainly implemented by subsidies and measures to enhance the ‘appropriability’ of innovation (IPR). To identify which areas need support, foresight has been developed. With respect to negative externalities, various forms of technology assessment have been established and, to protect society if the impacts are becoming a problem, regulation is put in place. This framing identities the most important element of innovation as the discovery process (invention) and gives rise to the linear model in which technology is the application of scientific knowledge. The linear model privileges discovery over application. In part because the rewards of application are assumed to be carried out through an adequate functioning of the market system. Only in the case of market failure, is government action required.
THE SECOND FRAME OF INNOVATION: NATIONAL SYSTEMS OF INNOVATION & ENTREPRENEURSHIP
The second framing aims to make better use of knowledge production, supports commercialisation and bridges the gap between discovery and application. This framing takes as central various forms of learning including: those acquired by using, producing and interacting; linkages between various actors; absorptive capacity and capability formation of firms; and finally, entrepreneurship. The rationale for policy intervention is system failure – the inability to make the most out of what is available due to missing or malfunctioning links in the innovation system. Innovation policy focuses, for example, on technology transfer, building technology platforms and technology clusters to stimulate interaction and human capital formation. Further, in this model, foresight, technology assessment and regulation are add-ons to the core activity of promoting innovation (on the assumption that any innovation is desirable and good since innovation is the motor for producing economic growth and competiveness).
THE THIRD FRAME OF INNOVATION: TRANSFORMATIVE INNOVATION POLICY
A third frame for innovation policy is that of transformative change which takes as a starting point that negative impacts or externalities of innovation can overtake positive contributions. This frame focuses on mobilising the power of innovation to address a wide range of societal challenges including inequality, unemployment and climate change. It emphasises policies for directing socio-technical systems into socially desirable directions and embeds processes of change in society. Innovation Policy 3.0 explores issues around socio-technical system change to give a structural transformation in: governance arrangements between the state, the market, civil society and science; experimentation and societal learning; responsible research and innovation; and, finally, a more constructive role for foresight to shape innovation processes from the outset and on a continuing basis.
HOW DOES FRAME THREE DIFFER?
This flowchart below demonstrates the principal difference between Frames 1 and 2, and then that of Frame 3. Frames 1 and 2 assume public welfare will be addressed through the stimulus of new knowledge and innovation which will be utilised by industry to achieve economic growth. Frame 3 explicitly and fundamentally addresses societal goals as a primary focus. By tackling societal challenges first and foremost, Frame 3 thinking supposes that, with attention on social and environmental welfare, there will be greater productivity and less inequality, therefore then, increased economic growth. It flows counter to that of Frame 1 and 2 assumptions.
Socio-technical system transformation is very different from just developing new radical technological solutions. The evolution and focus on the social aspects, connected with the technical, is also key. Without this dual focus a transition will not occur. For example, science, technology and innovation policy can focus on the introduction of electric vehicles and its weak spot: overcoming the limited range through battery development.
However, if the electric vehicle only is a substitute for the current car and we continue with a car dominated mobility system, the low carbon and inclusive economy will still be far away. Industry structures may be transformed but ambitious SDGs will not be met. Therefore, we argue, it would be better to focus innovation policies supporting the emergence of new mobility systems, in which for example, private car ownership is less important, other mobility modalities such as small taxi vans, public transportation, walking and bicycling are more used in combination with, for example, electric vehicles that are provided by types of companies dedicated to the provision of mobility services using ICT capabilities e.g. mobility apps. In this new system, mobility planning and thus also reduction of mobility has become an objective of all actors, and even a symbol of modern behaviour. This is what we call a socio-technical system transition, it implicates co-production of social, behavioural and technological change in an interrelated way. For more information, please read our Guide to Deep Transitions, and the position paper that TIPC’s work derives from.
STI, TIP & The Sustainable Development goals
Johan Schot, TIPC Founder, SPRU Director
TIPC is examining how Transformative Innovation Policy (TIP) intersects with the UN’s Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable development Goals. What is the role of Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) in reaching the SDGs? STI is embedded specifically in Goal 9, however, the United Nations’ emphasis and narrative is on STI being front and centre in the delivery of the remaining Goals. A new transformative foundation for STI must be built to guide countries along new alternative paths of sustainable, equitable development. TIPC is a way to help meet these aims.
Transformative STI policy is just emerging in various contexts. There is limited experience and the policy itself is experimental. STI policy-makers across the world need to acquire new capabilities and become strategic catalysts for this transformative, ground-breaking change