Fourth virtual session in the 8th edition of the Science Summit around the 77th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA77)

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Transformative Innovation Policy (TIP) has become a new major theme in the Innovation Policy discourse. It has been proposed as an alternative framing for innovation policy by ‘people who are desperate to see changes in the current world scene’ to meet the ambitious challenges expressed in the SDGs.

While appreciating the importance of S&T in system transformation TIP practitioners believe that technological intervention alone is incapable of resolving systemic challenges such as climate change, inequality, migration etc., hence attempts to bring together social innovation and technical innovation to address systemic challenges. It is generally realized that the predominant tendency to see innovation as promoting economic growth is too narrow, hence the focus on directionality in innovation policy.

With inspiration from Dutch STS-scholars proponents of transformative innovation policy has applied the Multi-level Perspective (MLP) of Sustainability Transitions with the aim to capture the nature and dynamics of Deep Transitions. Some of this TIP-literature adopts a ‘programmatic’ approach and presents itself as ‘an alternative to innovation policy based either upon neo-classical economics or upon Innovation Systems analysis’.

Critical reviewers who question the novelty of this idea find TIP echoing Schumpeter who wrote about ‘path-breaking economic activities’ and recognised the transformative character of economic development. In this vein ideas such as lock-ins, policy interventions for structural change, regional path dependencies etc. are identified to be precursory to TIP. Further TIP can be seen to have influenced by at-least two sets of emerging literature namely ‘innovation and transition studies’ and ‘the missions-oriented policy framework’; both ideas in their original form dating back to the mid-20th century. A critique on TIP is regarding its dismissal of ‘mission economy’ as well as ‘innovation systems analysis’ as 20th century ideas. Yet another point of divergence is with respect to its claim that the current transition is the second one after the industrial revolution in the 18th century.

While recognising the importance of TIP it is pertinent to consider its theoretical foundations as well as historical relevance. Does it offer an adequate framework for public policy to meet the SDG’s in a world characterized by new digital technologies, growing global inequality and global decoupling and intensified international conflicts?

Can TIP bridge the gap between STS-research and public policy? Where exactly do the foundations of TIP lie and how is it related to respectively neo-classical economics and Innovation System-perspectives?
Could TIP be further developed in alliance with the broad evolutionary economics discipline and the innovation systems and mission economy schools? What would be the consequences?
The TIP-perspective has been developed mainly by scholars from the North, is it equally relevant for low income countries in the global south?

The fourth virtual session in the 8th edition of the Science Summit around the 77th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA77) scheduled on 21st September 2022, Wednesday (11AM to 1 PM) EDT will discuss some of the aforementioned issues.

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