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Coordinating Innovation (Policy): an Introduction to my PhD Research Topic

Andreas P Kopp11 August 2020

Andreas Kopp, a final year PhD candidate at UCL STEaPP and UCL IIPP and member of the Digital Technologies Policy Lab, elaborates on his doctoral research project and explains what’s so difficult about governing innovation. 

The challenge of innovation policy is coordination

There are no simple, prescribed solutions to such global issues as mitigating climate change or ensuring sustainable urban mobility. Instead, these require long-term contributions of many different economic sectors, governments, public agencies, and individual stakeholders. Increasingly, governments avert to drafting ‘mission-oriented’ innovation policies, i.e. systemic policies that cut across sectors in an attempt to enable the purposeful innovation of technologies towards a desired direction, rather than prescribing a closely defined solution. In other words, governments are ‘tilting the playing field’.

Shared, sustainable autonomous vehicles at Lindholmen Science Park, Gothenburg, Sweden (Kopp 2019)

Shared, sustainable autonomous vehicles at Lindholmen Science Park, Gothenburg, Sweden (Kopp 2019)

This often results in innovations that are not only technically highly complex, but also re-define human behaviour – so called socio-technical systems. They also span across different policy areas and therefore pose a new challenge for policy makers and policy implementers: they trigger coordination problems across policy domains and across government authorities, as existing policies might contradict each other, or relevant policies and regulations might be missing entirely.

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In the era of SDGs and Grand Challenges should all innovation be ‘social innovation’?

jochataway20 January 2020

By Joanna Chataway, Rebecca Hanlin and Julius Mugwagwa

Geoff Mulgan, newly appointed Professor of Collective Intelligence, Public Policy and Social Innovation at UCL STEaPP, has an impressive new book out entitled ‘Social Innovation: How societies find the power to change’.  His ideas about social innovation made us wonder: In this era of changing goalposts for technological innovation, should we think about all innovation as to some degree being social innovation?

Innovation image

All innovation aimed at delivering social and environmental targets requires us to think about social factors, organisational change and other contextual realities. It could therefore be thought of as social innovation.  On the face of it, that would seem fine as a premise but with further reflection we concluded that things weren’t so simple.  It is certainly true that in the overwhelming majority of cases, technology alone won’t achieve social and environmental goals.  But, the difference between ‘innovation’ and ‘social innovation’ seems to us to relate to starting points and how technological innovation is conceptualised in relation to broader societal change.  Technological innovation, even when it is related to social and environmental goals, could be thought of as beginning with a scientific and technical focus, whereas social innovation does not.  The nature of this difference is worth exploring in more detail because the policy implications are important.

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More funding for research, yes, but what kind of research?

Siobhan Pipa21 November 2019

By Professor Joanna Chataway, UCL STEaPP, Dr Tommaso Ciarli and Dr Hugo Confraria, SPRU

Increased spending on research and innovation is a key component of efforts to help address the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their complex interactions. But pumping more money into scientific research does not necessarily mean that research will succeed in addressing the SDGs, even when it is designed to do just that.  This observation is at the heart of the new international and multi-partner STRINGS project which is looking at how science, technology and innovation (STI) can be better aligned to addressing the SDGs in Low and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs).

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