Inter-network dialogue on Transformative Innovation Policy agrees research agenda


This week’s inter-network workshop, focused on Transformative Innovation Policy (TIP), has developed a priority agenda for TIP and announced there will be a call for TIP papers for the TIPC conference in November. This announcement follows the second workshop meeting which took place over two days at the Utrecht University’s Centre for Global Challenges (UGLOBE).  Led by the European Forum for Studies of Policies for Research and Innovation (EU-SPRI), the workshop aim was to foster an internetwork dialogue between researchers and policymakers interested in future research on transformative change in the arena of Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) policy.

In attendance across the two days was a diverse team of researchers from the Global Network for Economics of Learning, Innovation and Competence Building Systems (GLOBELICS), the Sustainability Transitions Research Network (STRN), and staff and members from the Transformative Innovation Policy Consortium (TIPC).  In his opening address, TIPC Founder and Director Johan Schot commented on the truly interdisciplinary nature of the team that brought together young and senior scholars from the Global North and South, thus ensuring a multifaceted, pluralistic approach to TIP.

The first day saw the team break into groups to debate priorities, controversies and perspectives for the TIP research agenda. Following an earlier discussions at the last TIPC conference in 2018, particular areas of discussion had been agreed upon which included:

  • Rationales for TIP
  • The conceptual foundations of TIP
  • Role of Science, Technology and Innovation in TIP
  • The design and implementation of TIP

Much of the discussion centred on the need to understand the scope and scale of innovation, the feasibility of transformation for different contexts, and the actual coordination of innovation. The TIP research agenda has ambitious goals that represent a radical departure from traditional methods of policymaking and knowledge production, and thus needs truly transformative methods and modes that allow for diversity across different contexts. The importance of collaboration and coordination between different actors was stressed as crucial to the success of TIP, as well as the need to apply local, regional and national lenses.

It was agreed that innovation policies can deliver on transformation when there is emerging coordination across experiments in trans-local levels, when the State plays the role of a convener, facilitator and enabler, and also when we are reflexive on what problems we are addressing through transformation – which could be radically different in global North and global South contexts. Such agreements were confirmed when hearing from policymakers on the second day of the workshop, who stressed the need to work both transnationally and locally.

The two day inter-network research dialogue paved the way for an agreed research agenda on TIP, and it was clear there was appetite for continuing the discussion. The network agreed that the next priority was the creation of a research initiative group with representatives from all networks that will put together a research proposal for potential funders. Furthermore, TIPC will put out a call for papers to further develop understandings of TIP, which will coincide with the next TIPC Conference in November 2019.  A formal research agenda is due to be published in March 2019.

Comments on the inter-network dialogue from TIPC members:  

Elisabeth Gulbrandsen from the Research Council of Norway said, “The discussions over the last few days were rich and very positive. Progress has been made, and it is clear how special the ethos and agenda of TIP is. I was especially happy to see the focus on interaction between policymakers and academics, and the insistence that learning must come from all sides. It is easier to see where we are going, and where we have come from.”

Heli Karjalainen from Business Finland said, “I am very happy with the outcome, and look forward to the agenda that will come out at the end of March. We still have some way to go; the language and discourse needs to be settled on but that is why it is so important we have this platform for ongoing discussions.”

Goran Marklund from Vinnova in Sweden said, “The feeling around the research agenda is very good, and it’s exciting to see that different networks are noting the potential of TIP. Converging interests and interaction with policymakers is crucial and it’s good to see this happening. I feel comfortable and TIPC is catalyst for this and that is important.”

Imran Patel from the South African National Research Foundation commented, “The conversation is deepening and we are tackling some key research questions. How do we want to unfold the research agenda? How do you give different knowledges equal standing between different groups? We are making good progress.”

Ed Steinmueller, from the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU), said, “The proposals at the end of the dialogue were very interesting, in particular the possibility of creating user guides to certain elements like frugal innovation or energy transition. This could be a great start for a research agenda that would interact with policy, and help develop a shared understanding of discourse and language between academics and policymakers.”

Johan Schot, TIPC Founder and Director, stated, “We came further than anticipated in this dialogue. It was open, productive and interesting with some solid outcomes. The key challenge will be how to stay true to the transformative ethos of TIPC as we move forward, but I am confident that we will achieve this.”