Faced with pressing societal challenges, disruptive technological change, grand transitions (energy, circular economy, health, digitization) and a rapidly changing politico-economic European and world stage, the need to act, adjust and re-steer in our society has increased significantly. Technology and innovation can offer potent solutions for the grand transitions and the ‘wicked’ societal challenges of our time. Challenge-oriented innovation policies for technology and innovation developments play a crucial role in offering potent solutions for the grand transitions and the ‘wicked’ societal challenges of our time.
Within existing research, an emerging stream of research can be identified that discusses such ‘innovation policies for grand societal challenges’ , ‘new mission-oriented policies’ or ‘transformative innovation policies’ . What connects these literatures is the focus on 1) complex, open-ended, multi-dimensional and systemic societal problems, 2) allowances of innovation policy to formulate ‘directionality’, ‘intentionality and goals’ and ‘demands/needs’, and 3) new, inclusive and decentralized governance modes.
When we talk about transformative innovation policy we therefore concern ourselves with (the governance of) policies for directing socio-technical systems in socially desirable directions to properly embed, facilitate and sometimes accelerate solutions to societal challenges, such as climate change, environmental degradation, or healthy ageing. The research we carry out within this field includes analyses of how to facilitate and foster transformative change. Furthermore, we explore, develop and apply new and/or innovative modes of governance to policy-making, including more participatory modes of governance involving stakeholders and citizens to allow for co-design and co-creation. Finally, we explore the rules-of-the-game of transformative innovation policies, including the division of roles and responsibilities along the quadruple helix, and process criteria and risks. Our research thus takes a strong process approach.
We present the results of our ongoing research regarding paradoxes of transformative innovation policy in practice. In our empirical fieldwork, we explore the governance structure of different transformative innovation policies. In addition, we explore in-depth specific innovation policies, including one specific transformative innovation policy in the mobility domain, one project at the regional level and one project at the organizational level. Our empirical data consists of 1) primary data sources in the form of interactions with practitioners involved in the design and implementation of these transformative innovation policies and interviews, and 2) unique archival data regarding the design, governance and various stakeholders’ involvement in one specific transformative innovation policy in the mobility domain, one project at the regional level and one project at the organizational level.
Our results direct us to the consideration of paradoxes of transformative innovation policy in practice. That is, we indicate that when innovation questions become centered around specific societal/transformative challenges, the derivation of a universal formula for effective transformative innovation policies is hard to achieve. We argue that transformative innovation policies become distinctive due to the role of paradoxes in practice, including: time paradoxes, quadruple helix paradoxes and process paradoxes. We thus highlight the role of governance, politics, and actors in creating paradoxes in practice which result in idiosyncratic ’no-one-size-fits-all’ missions.
Amber Geurts, Arjen Goetheer, Adriaan Slob
Publication European Commission and Joint Institute for Innovation Policy: Mission Oriented Research and Innovation: Inventory and characterization of initiatives
Publication European Commission and Joint Institute for Innovation Policy: Mission-Oriented Research and Innovation: Assessing the Impact of a Mission Oriented Research and Innovation Approach