Johan Schot today outlines thinking on Transformative Innovation Policy to the United Nations’ Commission on Science, Technology and Development at its twentieth session in Geneva.  In the panel presentation and discussion, Professor Schot argues that this new framing of innovation policy fundamentally challenges long-held assumptions on how the innovation process produces growth, productivity and progress.

By encompassing societal aims at the core of strategy from the starting point, this fresh approach on innovation policy can aid the policy mix of agencies and organisations to help reach the development aims outlined in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Schot said: “I am pleased to be discussing new innovation approaches to support the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals with the UN Commission on Science, Technology and Development. Innovation will have to be transformative. The crucial issue is how to integrate a social and environmental agenda into science, technology and innovation policies. This should not become an administrative exercise, but one which focuses on enabling change on the ground, facilitating large scale societal experimentation, social and inclusive innovation. ‘Innovation for Transformation’ needs to become a movement.”

Today’s intervention builds on a long standing relationship between the work of the Science Policy Research Unit, where Johan is Director, and the UN Commission on Science and Technology. This follows in the path of previous SPRU colleagues, in particular previous SPRU Director, Geoff Oldham, who was also a former chair of the Commission, and more recently the work of Adrian Ely, Senior Lecturer at SPRU, who aided the Commission in preparing an issue report on innovation and the SDGs.

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Infographic: How Transformative Innovation Policy could help reach the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals

The Assumptions and Aims of the 3 Frames of Innovation Policy: A Visual 


Frames 1 (green arrows) and Frame 2 (blue arrows) both assume public welfare will be addressed through the stimulus of new knowledge and innovation which will be utilised by industry to achieve economic growth. Frame 3 (purple arrows)  fundamentally addresses societal goals as a primary focus.

By tackling societal challenges first and foremost, Frame 3 thinking supposes that, with attention on social and environmental welfare, there will be greater productivity and less inequality, therefore then, increased economic growth. It flows counter to that of Frame 1 and 2 assumptions. The solid line shows the frame addresses explicitly this aspect. (e.g. the link between knowledge creation and utilization in frame 2). The dotted line indicates that an aspect is assumed to follow automatically (e.g the utilization of the results of basic scientific research by industries in frame 1).  Schot argues that the Sustainable Development Goals can act as the environmental and societal challenges for a Frame 3 approach.

For more on this read the accompanying paper on the TIPC website.

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