Agenda 2030 and a Transformative Innovation Policy: Conceptualizing and Experimenting with Transformative Changes Towards Sustainability


Increasingly urgent societal challenges are changing the demands on innovation policy. At the same time, and partially as a result, the theoretical approach to innovation policy is shifting from a predominantly market
or system failure rationale to a system or transformative change approach. Consequently, government efforts to promote innovation are moving from a more generic, reactive character – in which implicitly all innovation was seen as potentially contributing to economic growth and competitiveness and therefore ‘good’ – towards a more directional nature, with policymakers seeking to channel innovation efforts and
support towards addressing challenges or issues such as climate change, ageing populations, urban development etc. In parallel with these ongoing changes in innovation policy, the recent adoption of Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has put forward a global holistic and integrated agenda for socially, economically and environmentally sustainable development challenging national governments to revisit and reframe their policy orientations, frameworks and processes. In this paper, we establish an important conceptual link between innovation policy and Agenda 2030. Using the example of Sweden, we show how innovation policy and the implementation of the SDGs both depend on and shape each other. Thus, innovation – in a broad sense and on many levels (policy innovation, business innovation, market innovation, organizational and governance innovation as well as technological innovation, and innovation at local, national and global levels of administration) – will be an essential requirement for implementing the SDGs at the same time as Agenda 2030 will necessitate a fundamental rethinking of innovation policy, in terms of its goals, instruments and processes.

Publication Year: 2018