At a poignant time for the global conversation on man-made climate change, TIPC, coordinated by the University of Sussex Business School’s Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU), held its annual members’ engagement week featuring the conference – ‘Innovation for Transformation’. Comprised of workshops, panel discussions and seminars the focus through the week was on new ways to tackle what is seen as the conundrum of the 21st century – how to change habits, and establish norms and values that are sustainable on a societal and individual level. This came during a week when the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) provided its strongest assurance of the stark consequences for human welfare if countries and businesses fail to find alternative ways to meet basic lifestyle needs. Despite decades of knowledge around the unsuitability of fossil fuels for humanity’s longer-term situation, government, businesses, families and individuals have failed to conclusively take steps forward towards alternatives behaviours that change and embed new systems – in energy, in food and clothing production, in housing and in transport. The charge to alter behaviours needs to come from many groups across government, civil society, business and consumers.
The Transformative Innovation Policy Consortium (TIPC), an international partnership of science, technology and innovation (STI) policymakers and academics, aims to do this by looking at how public policy in this area can direct fresh solutions fit for 21st century challenges, that ‘leave nobody behind’. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), agreed upon by the United Nations in 2015, provide a to-do list of seventeen aims for humanity to reach by 2030, all encapsulated in the strapline – ‘Transform our World’. What is crucially different about the TIPC member is that they see these as applying not only to ‘developing’ nations but to ‘developed’ ones also. There is an acknowledgement that a new emphasis and approach to growth is required. After all, no country in the world has transitioned to systems which keep their citizens alive with approaches that are sustainable beyond the very short term e.g. into one more generation.
The TIPC programme runs from 2018-2022, having at its core the shared commitment to experiment, evaluate and embed successful, new strategies and projects to address the issues that the IPCC and others outline. It also includes the development of a research agenda for Transformative Innovation which uniquely brings together the know-how from across three established academic research networks – EU-SPRI, Globelics and the Sustainability Transitions Research Network (STRN). – Globelics, EU-SPRU and STRN. TIPC Founder and Director Professor Johan Schot said:
“The conference was inspiring and provided a lot of energy and insight for developing TIPC’s work.
It deepened my commitment and drive. I think the conference showed a strong engagement from members and many committed actors who are interest in how we can enact transformative change. We have built a global constituency behind TIPC’s work and there is clearly a deeply felt need to develop the Transformative Innovation Policy perspective. The challenge is huge. Research councils and innovation agencies need to experiment with and develop new areas of work. They require new thinking and new competences in the process. TIPC can play a useful role as a niche for experimentation and development of these competences. Many conference participants are ready to engage further and make contributions. Thus we have a strong basis for moving forward. Any contestations are not about the question of whether we need TIP, they are more about the how question. For example, how to experiment and how to coordinate with sectoral policies? How to develop a formative evaluation practice and culture and relate to accountability issues? How to relate missions and transformations? It is about policy mixes and future governance structures and the building of a TIP for the SDGs. How do we develop a knowledge infrastructure which can respond to the TIP challenges? The members’ engagement week and conference gave us signposts and new directions to work towards. It is becoming increasingly pertinent that we do.”
Professor Ed Steinmueller, co-author with Professor Schot on the pioneering research that underpins TIPC, said:
“The announcement of the new IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change) report on the Monday following our conference reinforces the relevance and salience of our efforts. Draft themes in this report include: the indispensability of mitigating actions to prevent a 1.5 degree increase in global temperatures, and that these actions should be aligned with poverty reduction but that significant uncertainty remains about which pathways are more consistent with the principle of equity. The report also emphasises the relevance of multiple forms of knowledge, including narrative scenarios and prospective pathways and the links to sustainable development Goals (SDGs). We are clearly riding the wave of change and, fortunately, this wave appears to be gaining momentum.”
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