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The first stage of a new seminal partnership, with the central aim of transforming innovation, launched on the opening day of SPRU’s 50th Anniversary Conference in September 2016. The Transformative Innovation Policy Consortium (TIPC) brings together global actors to examine and research respective innovation systems to explore the future of innovation policy – its foundation, formulation and governance. Alongside SPRU, the founding countries to join the project are Colombia, Norway and South Africa with Sweden and Finland subsequently joining. The consortium members are:

  • Research Council of Norway
  • The South African National Research Foundation
  • Colombian Administrative Department of Science, Technology & Innovation – Colciencias
  • Swedish Governmental Agency for Innovation Systems – VINNOVA
  • Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation – Tekes
  • Science Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex

A further cohort including Mexico joined in 2018. There are associated projects in China and Panama.


The Consortium’s key objective is to examine and expand on current innovation frames and approaches to assist in solving urgent social and economic issues. Partners commit resource, time and expertise to the Consortium to enable joint resource and working to progress new innovation theories and practices with key deliverables and outcomes seeking to address the central issues of our time: climate change, inequality, employment and future growth. This is a challenge for both the Global North and the Global South. TIPC aims to shape and deliver a new innovation policy framework (termed Innovation Policy 3.0) alongside other associated ‘policy mixes’ in a transdisciplinary way. The Consortium will interface between the worlds of research, business, government, media and civil society. During the process all participants are positioned as active co-researchers and co-policy designers. The outline below gives an introduction to the three frames of innovation within which the Consortium works.

The Three Frames of Innovation: Introduction

Rethinking innovation policy is timely. Many research councils, governments and international organizations world-wide want innovation to address a number of well-chosen societal or grand challenges. Another indicator is the growing impact of the notion of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI).   Yet how to design, implement and govern challenge-led innovation policies is far from clear. Many innovation policies are based on the 20th century supply-driven innovation model, which takes competition between nations and support for R&D as the main entry point for policy making without thinking more creatively about the broader suite of innovation policies that are available. Over the last decades two main innovation policy frames have been developed.

The First Frame of Innovation: Innovation Policy 1.0

The first framing portrayed innovation policy as providing incentives for the market to produce socially and economically desired levels of science knowledge (R&D). This is mainly implemented by subsidies and measures to enhance the ‘appropriability’ of innovation (IPR). To identify which areas need support, foresight has been developed. With respect to negative externalities, various forms of technology assessment have been established and, to protect society if the impacts are becoming a problem, regulation is put in place. This framing identifies the most important element of innovation as the discovery process (invention) and gives rise to the linear model in which technology is the application of scientific knowledge. The linear model privileges discovery over application. In part because the rewards of application are assumed to be carried out through an adequate functioning of the market system. Only in the case of market failure, is government action required.

The Second Frame of Innovation: Innovation Policy 2.0

The second framing aims to make better use of knowledge production, supports commercialisation and bridges the gap between discovery and application. This framing takes as central various forms of learning including: those acquired by using, producing and interacting; linkages between various actors; absorptive capacity and capability formation of firms; and finally, entrepreneurship. The rationale for policy intervention is system failure – the inability to make the most out of what is available due to missing or malfunctioning links in the innovation system. Innovation policy focuses, for example, on technology transfer, building technology platforms and technology clusters to stimulate interaction and human capital formation. Further, in this model, foresight, technology assessment and regulation are add-on’s to the core activity of promoting innovation (on the assumption that any innovation is desirable and good since innovation is the motor for producing economic growth and competiveness).

The Third Frame of Innovation: Innovation 3.0

A third frame for innovation policy is that of transformative change which takes as a starting point that negative impacts or externalities of innovation can overtake positive contributions.  This frame focuses on mobilising the power of innovation to address a wide range of societal challenges including inequality, unemployment and climate change. It emphasises policies for directing socio-technical systems into socially desirable directions and embeds processes of change in society. Innovation Policy 3.0 explores issues around socio-technical system change to give a structural transformation in: governance arrangements between the state, the market, civil society and science; experimentation and societal learning; responsible research and innovation; and, finally, a more constructive role for foresight to shape innovation processes from the outset and on a continuing basis.

Innovation policy for transformative change (Innovation Policy 3.0) aims to:

Broaden the concept of innovation from what is traditionally called invention to innovation and embedding it in society to think far beyond support for R&D and the prioritisation of specific research avenues. It should support constant ‘tinkering’ and re-making of systems as well as the development of new services and organisational models to meet social as well as economic challenges. This involves a wide range of actors – from firms to knowledge institutions to users, NGOs and governments.

Provide direction to innovation. This outcome is not about setting priorities, but about improving the process of opening up to a possibility of choices, and of the closing down of  options. Innovation policy should allow a greater diversity of options without falling back to dichotomous, “for” or “against”, arguments around specific options. It should specifically enable experimentation with options outside the narrow boundaries set by incumbents. It should be based on scientific advice from a broad range of perspectives, and should nurture opportunities for various stakeholders to challenge the dominant views. Innovation policy inescapably and necessarily involves conflict and political power struggles. Governance structures should be made compatible with these aims.

TIPC does not assume that innovations and socio-technical system change will necessarily come from the Global North, and that other countries will have to play catch-up. On the contrary the assumption is that both the Global North and Global South are in a position to contribute, and that mutual learning will be beneficial.

The Aims and Ambitions

TIPC aims to analyse our current world in deep transition, develop a new shared rationale and vision for innovation policy, and also to engage in policy design and experimentation, training and skill formation. The project involves building new platforms for a mutual learning process between the Global North and South and between research and policy.

The Consortium intends to deliver on this ambition by designing a pilot project, then use the results and lessons learned, to build a longer-term agreement involving more partners. The pilot aims to articulate the prospects for a transformative innovation policy (Innovation Policy 3.0) in the context of innovation policy conducted through frames one and two. The aim is to explore whether and how these frames can be combined, and to investigate modes of implementation with possible ‘policy mixes’.

The work programme consists of theoretical and historical analysis of innovation policy as well as a number of case-studies, and policy design workshops allowing researchers, policy-makers and other stakeholders to explore early ideas through iterative experimentation catalysing second order learning. This is about making implicit policy theories visible, and exploring how to frame problems to generate new insights and ideas. It also involves building up a larger constituency of stakeholders in the project and finally, developing a series of recommendations with a long term implementation programme.

The infographic visual below demonstrates the research thinking behind the creation of the Transformative Innovation Policy Consortium. 

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Copyright © 2019 Johan Schot