The TIP Conference 2019 – Towards a Global Research Agenda, and the TIPC partners’ engagement week, took place last week at INGENIO (CSIC-UPV) in Valencia, highlighting global policymakers and researchers’ commitment to building bridges between transformative theory, practice, experimentation and implementation to tackle international challenges outlined by the Sustainable Development Goals. The event was organised by the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at the University of Sussex Business School and co-funded by the EU-SPRI, in collaboration with Utrecht University.
The third annual TIP Conference brought together policymakers, funding agencies, transition researchers and practitioners from around the world – including representatives from the European Commission, Eu-Spri, the Sustainability Transitions Research Network (STRN), Globelics and the Canadian International Development Research Centre (IDRC). The Engagement Week progressed the partnership between key TIPC players, the TIPC core and associate members, from innovation and funding agencies from across the globe – South Africa, Colombia, Norway, Finland, Sweden, China, Senegal, Ghana and Kenya. Together, participants continued to co-create the research agenda for Transformative Innovation Policy (TIP) to take the world across the transformative bridge towards systems change that support system change to prevent climate catastrophe.
Keynote – Narratives of Hope and Creative Collisions
Opened by the CEO of the European Institute of Technology’s Knowledge and Innovation Community on Climate (EIT Climate-KIC), Dr Kirsten Dunlop, the conference delegates heard her urge the TIP network to actively create ‘narratives of hope’ around addressing the climate emergency. Dr Dunlop pressed practitioners to seek ‘creative collisions’ that go against perceived wisdom to design new systems and knowledge. She pushed for putting people, and not technology, ‘at the centre’ of the solution – to ‘design for humans…to design for unlearning…to design for change’. EIT Climate-KIC is developing a programme of experimentation with the Transformative Innovation Policy Consortium that focuses on these principles. Dr Dunlop enunciated in her keynote, it takes ‘stone-by-stone…project-by-project’ to build the arch of a bridge, a bridge that can reach systems transformations. A diverse, portfolio approach is necessary that examines and supports both the social and the technical relationships and networks involved, steering away from single-point, technological solutions, aims or fixes.
Further echoes of this approach were heard in the plenary session ‘Policy for Global Transformations’, convened by Mike Asquith of the European Environment Agency (EEA) and featuring representatives from the European Commission and the German, Swiss and Dutch environment agencies. The panel clearly illustrated how sustainability transitions, systems theory and TIP is now at the beating heart of EU policy. This pivot in thinking, towards an approach focused on systems change, demonstrates how the policy pathway is heading in a transformative direction that encompasses missions, not as single-points of focus, but as steps towards whole systems change.
TIP Africa Hub
Delegates heard from a number of projects and initiatives including the work of the TIP Africa Hub, whose year of exploratory work, funded by IDRC, demonstrated how solutions to the SDGs cannot be presumed to come from the Global North. Like other TIPC members, Colombia and South Africa, the work of this project highlights how the severity of ‘lock-in’ into current systems in the EU and ‘Global North’, makes the challenge of sustainable development, possibly, even greater. This is a central paradox when considering the mainstream narrative in economic development, which categorises countries around ‘developing’ and ‘developed’ countries. Dr Ghosh, TIPC Research Fellow from SPRU explains: “The experimentation in African countries is a fantastic example of how we can unleash the potential of innovation to transform some key systems like education and waste management. This has been a moment to think through real problems and have really creative solutions to tackle problems in conditions of resource scarcity, yet with great human courage and wisdom.”
The positive work in Africa was further illuminated by the announcement by Dr. Ann Kingiri of Globelics, who announced the creation of a five-year Trilateral Chair between ACTS – a leading think tank working to harness applications of science, technology & innovation for sustainable development in Africa; the University of Johannesburg; and the Science Policy Research Unit at the University of Sussex Business School to research the 4th Revolution, Transformative Innovation and SDGs.
The Marketplace Debate
The conference took a contemporary approach in its structure to encourage maximum participation and debate, featuring poster exhibitions, open session discussions and an agora, marketplace-style debate. Dr Ghosh, TIPC Research Fellow from SPRU, of the Conference Organising Committee said: “It was extremely rewarding to experiment with the design of the conference. We were basically planning a hands-on workshop, but for more than 100 people. The fact that everyone loved the discussions and the ‘agora’ proves that everything new is not uncomfortable. Several themes for the TIP research agenda have emerged. These are: politics of framing in governing transformative change, ways of evaluating the process of transformation, diverse understanding of systems, platforms of co-creation, learnings from diverse territories and nurturing heterogenous capabilities.”
As EIT Climate-KIC’s Dr Dunlop explained in her keynote, it takes stone-by-stone, project-by-project building the arch of a bridge to reach systems transformation. The TIP Conference 2019, and the wider TIP Consortium, are part of the foundations and building blocks of this arch and drive to transform towards a cleaner, less fossil-fuel dependant, socially just world.