Reflections on 2016 & Towards 2017
“It is both fitting and ironic that in 2016, a year which will be noted for the significant and the seismic, we here at the Science Policy Research Unit have been celebrating. With SPRU’s 50th anniversary, we have applauded global connectivity, the drive for knowledge and constructive action to enhance our world. We have strengthened positive, diverse relationships and ideas against an unfolding, turbulent backdrop. There have been many despondent moments in 2016 yet I believe there have also been ones of hope and inspiration too.
When I first arrived in SPRU it was clear that it was important to work towards this celebratory anniversary year, now we see why even more. To mark our half-century we produced a history of SPRU and its impact, we connected to alumni from across the globe and hosted an engaging 50th Year Conference that re-focused and re-energised. I feel this mission has been accomplished thanks to the great people and networks SPRU is part of. Even more so following 2016’s activities, it feels an honour and a privilege to front this Unit to build upon the legacy of giants, past and present. SPRU is first and foremost a globally connected, vibrant intellectual milieu. It is just such a pleasure to be part of it.
On a personal note, it was an interesting year also as I started along three new research trajectories to build upon earlier work and advance down fresh avenues. When I left my previous role I had just finalised my book on the history of European integration – Writing The Rules For Europe: Experts, Cartels And International Organisations – which looks to answer the question – why is the EU so technocratic? As series editor of Making Europe, alongside Phil Scranton, we launched the 6th in the series – Globalising Europe: Mapping, Exploiting, Exchanging. Obviously with Brexit, this series has become very topical. I outlined my thoughts on the causes of Brexit in Nature, and on my blog. This website was also a new addition to the repertory in 2016 along with more twitter activity and the newsletter.
So on to new research. My first area, with Laur Kanger, has been looking at the role of users to develop the proposition that they are crucially important throughout transitions for starting, accelerating and stabilising sustainability transitions, in this case with the rise of the car in the US. The paper – User-Made Immobilities: A Transitions Perspective– was published in the journal Mobilities. This was based on an earlier 2016 paper – The Roles of Users in Shaping Transitions to New Energy Systems (Schot, Kanger and Geert Verbong, 2016) – published in Nature Energy. Next year I will develop and test insights about users for energy transitions in an EU project with SPRU’s Benjamin Sovacool and Lucy Baker.
The second line of research, and its accompanying project, has been around developing a new type of innovation policy that transforms to aid societal gain through the 21st century. Teaming up with the Research Council of Norway; The South African National Research Foundation; the Colombian Administrative Department of Science, Technology & Innovation, Colciencias; Swedish Governmental Agency for Innovation Systems, VINNOVA; and the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation, Tekes – together we launched the Transformative Innovation Policy Consortium (TIPC) into its pilot year. Here, I would like to thank Marion Clarke and Pip Bolton for their support. With the consortium, we aim to develop a range of new insights on how to implement transformative policy not only through research but also through implementation. The transformative innovation policy working paper that supports this project is coproduced with Ed Steinmuller. We give thanks, amongst many others in SPRU, to – Rob Byrne, Joanna Chataway, Chux Daniels, Jordi Molas Gallart, Elsie Onsongo, Ismael Rafols, Matias Ramirez, Claudia Obando Rodriguez, Adrian Smith, Blanche Ting and Jonas Torrens for their contributions and input.
The third research line, and one that also supports the rationale for TIPC, combines my historical interest with my interest in sustainability transitions. This centres around the working paper – Deep Transitions: Emergence, Acceleration, Stabilization & Directionality which I, again, authored with Laur Kanger. This outlines the ‘Second Deep Transition’ that the world is in – 2016 has certainly been about the ramifications of this.
So onwards into 2017, I am looking forward to developing all three research lines, to completing the pilot stage of TIPC culminating in the September conference in South Africa, to progressing the STS work for the International Panel Social Progress , and to publishing the final book in the Making Europe series – a year in which its very future is at stake. Through these activities, I will continue striving for positive global change and improvement for humanity’s position against the world’s ills and the worrying trends we have witnesses this year. The Science Policy Research Unit, and my role as its Director, is central to this action-led approach. We will continue leading, celebrating and strengthening diversity, connection, rigour, expression and, above all, hope.”
Johan Schot, Director of SPRU, University of Sussex