Innovation: Discourses, politics, societies, and blind spots
Location 128
Date and Start Time 01 September, 2016 at 09:00
Sessions 5


  • Sebastian Pfotenhauer (Technical University Munich) email
  • Benoit Godin email
  • David Tyfield email

Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

Innovation has become a leitmotif of policy-making and institution-building. Yet, innovation policy remains strangely apolitical. This track discusses the political, normative, deliberative, and culturally specific aspects of innovation policy and weighs them against current (mainstream) frameworks.

Long Abstract

Innovation has become a leitmotif of policy-making and institution-building around the globe - a "panacea" that carries with it the promise of solving socioeconomic woes almost independently of what and where these woes are. Conversely, all governmental functions must increasingly cater to innovation in order to appear legitimate, economically defensible, and modern. Yet, innovation policy remains strangely apolitical: envisioned as something that principally connects (apolitical) technology with (apolitical) markets; driven by economic and technocratic rationality about market failures, institutional failures, and systemic efficiency; conceptualized in terms of universal models with little attention to if and how concepts and models travel across social, cultural, and political contexts; and with no role for the state other than providing funding and post-hoc regulation.

This track invites papers that foreground the political, normative, deliberative, and culturally specific aspects of innovation policy and put them in conversation with the current (mainstream) frameworks:

• How do politics enter - or are being prevented from entering - the innovation discourse and process? What is the role of the political state?

• Which imaginaries and discursive formations underwrite innovation across countries? What are the locally diagnosed deficits in the name of which innovation is invoked?

• How is the 'innovation imperative' shaping other policy domains?

• What are the blind spots of the current innovation discourse?

• Which frictions exist between standardizing innovation in the form of models and pluralizing innovation as contingent practice?

• Who are the 'innovation experts?' How is innovation expertise co-produced with global power differentials and inequalities?

This track is closed to new paper proposals.


An exploration of innovation outside of the R&D lab

Authors: Caroline Stratton (The University of Texas)  email
Diane Bailey (UT Austin)  email

Short Abstract

Innovation is no longer the sole possession of Silicon Valley or corporate research labs. It has become a watchword in everyday life and work. Our investigation asks the question: Is conceptual precision and clarity possible in the application of the term innovation outside of science and technology?

Long Abstract

The term innovation is ubiquitous. Innovation is no longer the sole possession of Silicon Valley or university and corporate research labs. It has become a watchword in everyday life and work. Because of its ubiquity and application to a broad variety of processes and products outside the traditional realm of innovation, science and technology research and development entities, innovation may come to mean less and less as it refers to more and more. Our investigation asks the question: Is conceptual precision and clarity possible in the application of the term innovation outside of science and technology? We examine three cases of self-labeled innovation outside of these conventional boundaries of science and technology to answer this question. The settings for the nontraditional innovations are an educational technology fair in Eastern Bolivia, a gathering place for Colombian soccer hooligans organizing to build conviviality, and the digital inclusion spaces inside of public libraries in Uruguay. Drawing upon data from ethnographic observation and semistructured interviews, we explore informants' conceptions of innovation as a process and the output of the innovating process. Additionally, we probe the meaning of innovation in each setting and draw out the distinguishing features of the concept across the cases. Finally, we explore alternatives to the widespread label of innovation and suggest directions for studying innovation in everyday life settings.

Tensions between discourse and practice in the EU industrial collaborations

Author: Rui Durão (ISCTE-Instituto Universitário de Lisboa)  email

Short Abstract

The national champions policy, absent in political discourses, is visible in the European instruments of support to industry. Moreover, an increasing share of the R&D of private companies is to be publicly funded, in spite of the minimalistic view of the role of the State in the economy.

Long Abstract

Ever since the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community in 1951, it was clear that the European collaboration was easiest to justify at national level when short to mid-term economic advantages were to be achieved through that collaboration - as the widely known concept of European Added Value demonstrates. In this paper it is argued that the policy instruments that where developed throughout the years in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) European collaboration area, from ESPRIT and RACE in the first Framework Programs, to the Joint Technological Initiatives (JTI) in FP7 and H2020, are actually a reconfiguration of the national champions policy that, meanwhile, became unacceptable under the new mainstream political discourse on the role of the State in the economy. Moreover, and using an in-depth view into the JTI ENIAC, ARTEMIS and ECSEL, all dedicated to the ICT area, and all involving the European Commission, the Member States and the European industry, it is argued that the public authorities - both Member States and the Commission - have their decisions influenced by a political framework that actually gives them no other choice other than to take an increasingly greater responsibility on funding the R&D efforts of private companies. This pressure is justified by the need to support the competitiveness of the industry, either at national or at European level - even though the same actors that demand the support to the R&D activities of private companies maintain the discourse on the minimal intervention of the State in the economy.

Innovation as a loophole in the law: the legal high case

Author: Johan Soderberg (Göteborg University)  email

Short Abstract

Presentation of a case study of users who innovate new methods for extracting controlled substances from plants in order to circumvent legislation and law enforcement. It suggests how the illegal greyzone serves as an incubator for innovation in the Schumpeterian-Shenzhen accumulation regime.

Long Abstract

The trend towards increased involvement by users and amateurs in scientific research and product development is applauded by company executives and policymakers alike. Missing from this picture are cases where user innovation is emphatically unwelcome, to the point that law enforcement agencies try to curb it. In my case study I look into a subculture dedicated to developing controlled substances. At the centre of the inquiry is the state and its inadvertent role in steering and fuelling unwanted user innovation. The more firms and policymakers promote a model where research and innovation are outsourced to users, the more those practices can be directed to unforeseen and potentially contentious ends, some of which warrant intervention from law enforcement. Concurrently, those innovations generate legal business models and white markets, as examplified by "cognitive enhancers" that originated in unauthorised circualtion of prescription medicines among students. It could therefore be said that the outlawed user has always-already been anticipated and put to work in the Schumpeterian-Shenzhen accumulation regime.

Towards a multidimensional study of innovation.

Author: Apostolos Spanos (University of Agder)  email

Short Abstract

The paper proposes a study of innovation as (a) a content, (b) a process, (c) a historical situation, (d) a phenomenon, and (e) a concept. It also proposes a historical approach to innovation based on historical temporalities and a conceptual approach related to Sartori's "ladder of abstraction".

Long Abstract

The paper focuses on theoretical blind spots in the study of innovation and the current discourses. It is based on the hypothesis that innovation has become the recent decades an "essentially contested concept" (Gallie 1956). Innovation discourses seem to overlook the complexity of innovation, as both a phenomenon and a concept. Defining innovation has been, more often than not, limited to dictionary-type definitions, approaching innovation in a unidimentional way, responding to the needs of the current student. The paper proposes and discusses five different approaches to innovation, namely as (a) a content, i.e. an idea, a practice, or an artefact; (b) a process (of implementation, adoption, adaptation of an idea/practice/artefact); (c) a historical situation (as the Koselleckian Zustand); (d) a phenomenon, in other words how an innovation is experienced by the unit of adoption and/or the social units around it; and (e) a concept, i.e. the synchronic and diachronic onomasiology and semasiology of terms related to innovation. A central working question is whether both the theoretical and the practical innovation discourses need, accordingly, five different definitions of and approaches to innovation. Furthermore, the paper approaches innovation as a historical phenomenon by taking into consideration theories of historical layers and temporalities. Another working question is related to the more general concepts, or phenomena, in relation to which innovation may be understood better. In other words where should innovation be placed in a relevant "ladder of abstraction" (see Sartori 1970).

Disruptive Innovation: The History of an Idea

Author: Darryl Cressman (Maastricht University)  email

Short Abstract

Following Benoît Godin’s (2015) conceptual history of innovation, I subject disruptive innovation to a similar analysis by tracing the history of this idea back to the Italian Futurists, drawing out a more concrete understanding of the biases and presuppositions that disruptive innovation implies.

Long Abstract

Following Benoît Godin's (2015) conceptual history of innovation, in this presentation I subject disruptive innovation to a similar analysis by identifying and historicizing the sociotechnical pre-suppositions implied by this concept.

In its original form, disruptive innovation was intended to describe the process by which new firms disrupt markets by offering cheaper goods and services to consumers that incumbent firms overlook. Think Netflix and Blockbuster. The term disruption, though, has moved beyond its business school origins and is now used by entrepreneurs, policy makers, and citizens to describe a process by which networked technologies are endowed with the capability to transform what are seen as anachronistic and inefficient industries and institutions.

Drawing from both its business school origins and its place within the popular imagination, I argue that disruptive innovation is not just a concept that is enacted through particular sociotechnical initiatives and policies; it is also an idea that informs how individuals and groups think about technology a priori. Following the theme of 'technology by other means,' I explore the historical resonances between disruptive innovation and the ideas about technology articulated by the Italian Futurists, who, in the early twentieth century, propagated sociotechnical ambitions and initiatives that today's disruptive innovators claim as their own. Tracing the history of the idea of disruptive innovation as it has been articulated through different discourses allows for a more concrete understanding of the biases and presuppositions that this idea implies.

Narratives of Innovation in Singapore

Author: Gayathri Haridas (Nanyang Technological University)  email

Short Abstract

Challenging the notion of innovation as being solely dictated by the market, this paper looks at the impact of the dynamics between the state that defines innovation and academia that produces it, two key actors of the NSI machinery of Singapore.

Long Abstract

I study how the concept of 'innovation for economic growth' came about and how it is embodied institutionally in Singapore. The origin of the concept of innovation in STI policy design in Singapore, its development, and current status (1965-2015) will be traced by drawing on the social construction of technology approach (Pinch and Bijker, 1987). In addition, I explore how this dominant narrative of innovation impacts academic research in Singapore by studying the multiple perceptions of innovation that exists among policy makers and academic researchers. This will allow a glimpse into tensions or lack there-of between these two dominant groups in Singapore that constructs and produces innovation. I will use interviews with key policymakers and public university academics, and archival research to answer these questions.

Challenging the notion of innovation as being solely dictated by market needs, this paper studies how state, people, and technology engage with each other to construct and produce innovation. Andrew Barry showed us how the arbiter of innovation has expanded from technical machines to include political machines (2001) with the state and citizens holding contrasting positions in this political machinery (Asdal, 2004). While the state sets the direction for innovation, academia produces it, within a political sphere constructed by technical/technological machines. By shedding light on the impact of the dominant narrative of innovation on academic research in Singapore, I will attempt to extend the theory of social construction of technology into its third stage by relating innovation to the wider socio-political arena of Singapore.

Who are the Innovation Experts and where are their Blind Spots? Sources, Claims and Policy Implications of Social, Techno-scientific and Business Innovation

Author: Kyriaki Papageorgiou (ESADE / Harvard Kennedy School)  email

Short Abstract

This paper examines the overlapping academic work on social, techno-scientific and business innovation and analyzes the different kinds of knowledge claims expressed by the experts in these areas. Of particular interest are the normative implications of this work, particularly for EU policy.

Long Abstract

This paper examines the current academic discourses on innovation in three main areas: social, techno-scientific and business. In particular, it looks at the different kinds of expertise that inform these overlapping fields and the normative implications for European Union policy-making. Special emphasis is placed on the disciplinary location of these discourses, how claims to knowledge on innovation are constructed, justified and appraised, the different prescriptions they put forward to address the contemporary socio-economic challenges, and if/how these are adopted at the policy level. Empirically, the paper examines several innovation policies and initiatives recently introduced by the European Union (such as the "Knowledge and Innovation Communities" and the "Innovation Union" strategy) to demonstrate the models and imaginaries employed by policy makers. A key point of concern is how the roles of the state, market and citizens are articulated and re-configured within the different narratives and practices of innovation, and how certain questions of power and inequality are either underlined or ignored. Theoretically, this paper interweaves science and technology studies with recent scholarly engagements in anthropology on neoliberalism and reflections on innovation/capitalism's creative destruction.

Stem cell tourism to China, the 'innovation imperative' and strategic blind spots.

Author: Jane Brophy (Monash University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper presents empirical insights into how discourses around innovation are invoked strategically and, within commercial stem cell clinics, employed to obscure underlying power differentials in the context of stem cell tourism to China.

Long Abstract

As a form of medical innovation, stem cell research and clinical translation has been viewed by many governments as a priority in addressing health concerns of ageing populations, attracting foreign investment and partnerships, and raising international reputations in the global competition over 'innovation'. In China, driven by the dream of ganchao (to catch up and overtake), the prioritization of innovation in stem cell research created both purposeful and unforeseen blind spots, often requiring post hoc regulation. Throughout the 2000s, China became one of a number of leading destinations for people travelling to access stem cell treatments considered unproven by normative scientific standards and therefore unavailable in their home countries, leading some to characterize China as a 'Wild East' of stem cells. Such nationalized discourses obscure the international flow of patients, doctors and entrepreneurs also benefiting from the so-called 'failure' of China to regulate the market for unproven treatments. This paper draws on interviews conducted in China in 2014 with people involved in the provision of commercial stem cell treatments, as well as representatives of the Chinese Academy of Science. It addresses the second key theme of the conference around the antagonisms between citizen science, private partnerships and global assemblages. It contributes to the discussion in the track entitled 'Innovation: Discourses, politics, societies, and blind spots' by offering empirical insights into the way discourses of innovation are employed strategically in this particular context, and how they obscure other considerations such as the underlying power differentials in the co-production of scientific knowledge.

(Re)imagining the nation and its future: boosting pharmaceutical innovation in Russia

Author: Olga Zvonareva (Maastricht University)  email

Short Abstract

In this paper, drawing on the case of pharmaceutical innovation policy in Russia, I consider how technologies matter in the formation of visions of the nation and its futures, and how these visions in turn frame governance of innovation.

Long Abstract

In 2009 the Strategy for the Development of the Pharmaceutical Industry in the Russian Federation till 2020 (Pharma2020) was adopted by the country's Ministry of Industry and Trade. One of the main aims of Pharma2020 is to boost the development and production of innovative drugs in Russia. This paper analyses how intensified state efforts to stimulate and support local drug innovation have co-produced a particular vision of the Russian nation and its futures. To do so I employ the concept of sociotechnical imaginaries (Jasanoff and Kim, 2015), which not only encode visions of what is attainable through science and technology, but also of how a particular society ought or ought not to live, expressing and animating in this way shared societal understandings of good or evil as well as feeding into (re)formation of national identities.

The diffused aspirations for independent and self-sufficient Russian nation were reformulated, consolidated and rehearsed in Pharma2020 and in the related media and professional discussions, and publically performed through the policy implementation efforts. Concurrently, Pharma2020 grounded this vision in the pharmaceutical technoscientific system, granting it more strength and immediate relevance for different groups of actors, such as population, pharmaceutical professionals, and politicians, and making it communally adopted full-fledged sociotechnical imaginary. Pharmaceutical technologies, in turn, opened up political possibilities to articulate the need for concentration of the state power and (re)erecting the country borders to ensure "pharmaceutical security" of the nation-state.

The Politics of Inclusion in Science, Technology and Innovation for Regional Development in Colombia

Author: Elisa Arond (Clark University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper examines the case of a new regional ST&I Fund in Colombia, exploring the conditions under which decentralization of ST&I enables inclusion of new, grassroots actors in ST&I, and what meanings, visions and expectations of ST&I and development unfold in these subnational contexts.

Long Abstract

This paper explores the conditions under which decentralization of science, technology and innovation (ST&I) enables inclusion of new, grassroots actors in ST&I, and what meanings, visions and expectations of ST&I unfold in these subnational contexts. Some geographers have pointed to state rescaling, in particular decentralization, as a strategy of the neoliberalized(ing) state to enhance conditions for capital accumulation. Others suggest that decentralization could also open up spaces for democratic inclusion, calling for empirical studies of such practices. STS scholars emphasize the expansion of privatization and competitiveness as shaping directions of ST&I, but have not examined rescaling of ST&I policy as a neoliberal strategy. In 2011, the Colombian government committed 10% of all royalties from mining, oil and gas to a partially decentralized fund for building ST&I capabilities towards regional development, involving subnational actors (including elected governors) in deciding which projects are funded. This turn in Colombian ST&I policy is controversial, with some calling this new institutional arrangement too "political", also highlighting that regional actors lack the necessary capacities to formulate projects. Read another way, the Fund may also "open up" participation in ST&I to new regional actors, including grassroots groups, at least under some conditions. This paper draws on national-level interviews and regional case studies to explore micro-politics and political economic conditions that shape the types of projects selected and actors engaged. Secondly, the paper explores how differently located actors think about ST&I, particularly in relation to development - i.e. what meanings, expectations, and imaginaries of ST&I arise with the Fund.

"A Solution Looking for a Problem?" Interrogating the Deficit Model of Innovation

Authors: Sebastian Pfotenhauer (Technical University Munich)  email
Erik Aarden (University of Vienna)  email
Joakim Juhl (Harvard STS/Aalborg University)  email

Short Abstract

The call for innovation has become ubiquitous. As a result, policy-makers increasingly recast social problems as problems of (insufficient) innovation. Here, we interrogate and theorize this “deficit model of innovation” routinely used to generate diagnoses of defunct societies and institutions.

Long Abstract

Innovation has ceased to be a purely analytic category used in retrospect to explain technological change or economic growth. Instead, it has obtained a forward-looking, promissory, almost teleological quality. As a result, social problems are increasingly framed in terms of (insufficient) innovation, and policy-changes justified accordingly: The reason why societies face problems and countries are falling behind - so the logic goes - is BECAUSE of a lack of innovation. This deficit diagnosis is usually accompanied by secondary diagnoses of specific sites and processes where the right preconditions for innovation are lacking - a risk-averse public, lacking STEM education, or a small percentage of GDP invested in R&D.

We argue that this deficit framing of innovation is neither accidental nor inconsequential. It renders innovation a policy desideratum and instrument in its own right, wielded proactively and in the name of a better future to reconfigure societies in broad strokes, while circumventing the need for profound engagement with complex underlying causes or local socio-political interests. We call this pattern whereby innovation is routinely mobilized to generate diagnoses of defunct societies and institutions, and propose healthier, more innovative ones, the "deficit model of innovation."

We develop the 'deficit model' on three levels of analysis: the diagnosis of deficient societies, deficient institutions, deficient science. Drawing on STS work on the construction of deficits in the public understanding of science (PUS), we show how the notion of a deficit simultaneously legitimates expert rationality, limits potential solutions, and delegitimizes oppositional problem framings and critiques.

Spread as well as size matters: How UK innovation policy's focus on growth has created policy deficits elsewhere

Author: Melanie Smallman (University College London)  email

Short Abstract

This paper argues that as UK innovation policy has become more aligned with economic growth over the last 30 years, it has overlooked other social goods, including the spread of benefits. This has created significant policy deficits in other areas, including taxation.

Long Abstract

Encouraging and supporting innovation has become a key focus of the UK's science and engineering policy in the last 30 years. But what gains were envisaged and have they been enacted in the intervening years?

In this paper, I will present the findings of a large-scale analysis of the key policy papers documenting the UK's Science and Innovation policy over the last 30 years, along with the results of interviews with former UK Science Ministers.

I argue that as innovation policy has become more closely aligned with economic growth, this has pushed scientific imaginaries of the role of science to become more associated with economic growth too. At the same time, any scientific outcomes or social benefits beyond economic growth have become less specified and more taken for granted. The potential for innovation to deliver public service transformation and savings has also been lost. Most importantly, by taking the benefits of innovation as a given, government policy has overlooked structural economic changes relating to the spread of wealth and income inequality that appear to be associated with digital innovations in particular. This, I ague, is creating significant policy deficits in areas such as taxation and benefit regimes and is presenting a growing challenge to innovation in the future.

The biopolitics of innovation: remaking visions, practices and policies in stem cell therapy

Author: Christian Haddad (University of Vienna)  email

Short Abstract

The paper explores the politics of innovation stem cell therapy as an emerging field of advanced biomedicine. The concept of “biopolitics of innovation” helps to analyze the struggles over desirable modes of innovation, and to critically examine the relationships between innovation and politics.

Long Abstract

The politics of biomedical innovation is characterized by tensions to aggressively promote innovation on the one hand, and to protect the public from undesirable results of misguided innovation on the other. Stem cell therapy is an intriguing field to study how these tensions pan out in practice and how the relationships between innovation and politics are being (re-)articulated and gradually remade.

The paper compares two pioneering companies that have pursued strikingly different visions of stem cell therapy innovation in the US. Suggesting "biopolitics of innovation" as a sensitizing concept, the paper analyzes the specific articulations of innovation and regulation at work in these visions, and explores how these visions compete for hegemony against the backdrop of broader epistemic, economic and normative orders.

My paper addresses three concerns raised by the panel: First, it problematizes the tensions between attempts to prescribe models of innovation through institutional frameworks and policies on the one hand, and the multiplicity of actual practices of innovation on the other.

Second, it explores the sociotechnical struggles and negotiations over the "proper" relationships between politics and innovation. The notion of "biopolitics of innovation" helps to conceptualize the political character of the contingent relationships between innovation and politics.

Finally, it examines innovation in relation to discourses and imaginaries of desirable futures. Special attention is paid to the ways in which competing sociotechnical visions seek to articulate and inscribe their particular notions of value, health, and social order into broader discourses, imaginaries and policies of innovation.

The Innovation Subject. Governmental Technologies in Vocational Orientation

Author: Clelia Minnetian (TU Berlin)  email

Short Abstract

In vocational orientation in Germany governmental technologies promote an innovation imperative which has subjectifying effects on self-images and life-concepts. Combining a historical discourse analysis with participating observation I examine the powerful effects of this rationality.

Long Abstract

The innovation discourse in german education politics demands an innovationfriendly context to promote further economical growth and social prosperity. This comes with the idea, that innovations can't be produced by a central institution, but that the state has to establish a setting in which the production of innovations is more likely. Innovation itself is in this sense not contested, it is unisono referred to as an ideal, as a solution for diverse technical and social problems. Therefore the innovation imperative is also promoted through vocational orientation which though is a heterogenous and contested field of high individual and social relevance. In my research a historical discourse perspective through genealogy is combined with a contemporary focus on concrete governmental technologies. Empirically the research is based on document analysis and on participating observation at orientation programs and consultancy as well on biographic interviews with students in the vocational orientation phase. I aim to develop a historical understanding of the power relations in the complex of vocational orientation; and to examine the governmental practices applied - regarding their subjectivizing effects.

On the basis of the innovation discourse in educational politics my hypothesis is that this rationality is also powerful in vocational orientation and is applied through governmental practices. These again have intended and not intended effects on the subject - on self-images and life-concepts. With my research I aim to examine the link between the innovation discourse and its subjectifying effects and will present first central findings at the conference.

Market-Driven Research: From Research to Receipt in Danish Science Governance

Author: Joakim Juhl (Harvard STS/Aalborg University)  email

Short Abstract

Changes in Danish science governance at the turn of the century represent a new science governance model that I term: "market-driven research" where private industry has exchanged scientists’ democratic self-coordination and become the custodian of science's social purpose and value to society.

Long Abstract

Across western democracies the intensified focus on innovation has reconfigured the moral space for science. Although the Mode-2 thesis describes shifts in the scientific knowledge production and the Triple-Helix model prescribes a new role for universities in national innovation systems neither treat the governance changes causing the observed transformations in scientific conduct. This paper details the development of Danish science governance and evaluate the drastic changes that emerged around the shift of the millennium. The Danish development is presented as a manifestation of a new emergent science governance model termed "market-driven research". Recognizing contemporary science governance as a 'model' enables us to describe, identify and compare important features of science's tacit constitution across space and time. This in turn helps us to discuss tendencies and aberrations between locally and temporarily contingent science governance practices. The known science governance models, curiosity-driven research and mission-driven research, stem from postwar America and diverge from contemporary developments. My findings indicate that market-driven research, contrary to basing science's social accountabilities on producing apolitical 'pure' knowledge, or being a political extension of the state, prescribes science to operate as a self-sustained economic unit. In effect, science's social organization has turned from a self-coordinating democratic 'republic' into a professionalized administrative domain which ethos is modeled on that of large-scale commercial corporations. With a majority of executive board members from industry at Danish scientific institutions, neither the Danish state, nor academic peers but private industry defines the value of science.

Adressing Grand Challenges: denovation policy as the logical next step following the normative turn in innovation policy

Authors: Gijs Diercks (Imperial College London)  email
Rick Bosman (Erasmus University Rotterdam)  email

Short Abstract

The first decade of the 21st century has seen a normative turn in policy aimed at promoting innovations to tackle grand societal challenges. We argue that the logical next step is 'denovation policy' aimed at discouraging activities that contribute to exacerbating these grand challenges.

Long Abstract

The main objective of innovation policy in the 20th century was to boost competitiveness, bring economic growth and create jobs. The first decade of the 21st century has seen a normative turn resulting in a policy agenda explicitly addressing 'grand' or 'societal' challenges. By putting grand challenges at the central focus for innovation policy, one cannot omit that certain activities can also have negative outcomes and contribute to lock-in trajectories that exacerbate grand challenges. Therefore, we argue that the logical next step following the normative turn in innovation policy, is a focus on how to discourage activities and industries that contribute to exacerbating grand challenges. We argue that this is a blind spot of the current innovation discourse and propose to call policy with this specific aim 'denovation policy'. We argue that denovation policy consists of two main parts. First, innovation policy should stop addressing those activities that contribute to exacerbating grand challenges. Second, it should look for ways to actively discontinue these activities in a socially acceptable way. We support our argument with examples from Dutch innovation policy

Beyond mainstream frameworks of technology qualification: TRL revisited

Authors: Vidar Hepsoe (Norwegian Uni. of Science and Technology)  email
Marianne Ryghaug (Norwegian Univ. of Science and Technology)  email

Short Abstract

The Technological Readiness Level (TRL) framework builds on a linear and apolitical model of innovation. We propose an alternative framework and target some of the organizational and societal blind spots that that TRL and similar mainstream frameworks tend to reproduce.

Long Abstract

This paper studies one of the mainstream frameworks and most preferred methods used in technology qualification and innovation policy to evaluate the maturity and risk of new and evolving technologies: The Technological Readiness Level (TRL) framework. The framework may be seen as a way of standardizing innovation in the form of a model: A technology qualification process typically tries to provide 'evidence' that a technology will function within specified operational limits with an acceptable level of confidence, herby assuring that the technology will work according to its purpose without risks and uncertainties. The TRL framework describes how technologies move from conceptual ideas into increasingly materialized forms through experimentation, refinement and more realistic testing until incorporated into an existing system, thus building on a linear model of innovation that renders the technology and its surrounding astonishingly apolitical.

In this paper we set out to demonstrate how this standardized model that seemingly work for all technologies across different sectors and across countries, black boxes important organizational and culturally specific aspects that need to be addressed. Drawing on insight from STS we propose an alternative framework that goes beyond the TRL-approach. We introduce the term organizational readiness (ORL) to describe the process of developing and aligning with the organizational maturity and the term social readiness level to describe the importance of embedding the technology socio-culturally (politically, normatively and deliberatively). By doing this we aim to target some of the blind spots that TRL and similar mainstream frameworks tend to reproduce.

Biotechnological innovation and politics in Burkina Faso

Authors: Caspar Roelofs (University of Groningen)  email
Sjaak Swart (Energy and Sustainability Research Institute Groningen)  email
Idrissa Rachid Edouard Sanou (Gent University)  email
Menno Gerkema (University of Groningen)  email

Short Abstract

This paper addresses the relations between biotechnological innovation and politics in Burkina Faso from a Multi-level perspective. It discusses two diverging discourses around the roles and drivers of stakeholders in the adoption of genetically modified cotton.

Long Abstract

This paper addresses the relations between biotechnological innovation and politics in Burkina Faso from a Multi-level perspective. The adoption of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) cotton - a cotton variety that has been genetically modified to be insect resistant- between 2003 and 2008 and the current debate on its discontinuation in Burkina Faso provide an excellent case to study these relations. Methods used include in-depth interviews, surveys, and focus groups with stakeholders.

In this paper, two diverging discourses around the adoption of Bt cotton and the roles and drivers of stakeholders are described. It is argued that they can be understood from Geels' and Schots multi-level perspective (MLP). Its niche metaphor can be used to describe how political and industry actors in Burkina Faso managed to create a protected space in which Bt cotton could be further developed and matured to better fit the local context. The replacement of the old fashioned way of agriculture with a new biotech-based way of farming and the emergence of new regulatory frameworks and institutions could be described in terms of the emergence of a new socio-technological regime. The landscape metaphor can be used to describe a slowly changing environmental and socio-political context.

The paper aims to contribute to STS literature by applying the MLP to innovation in a developing context. By using the MLP to understand diverging discourses in this context, elements of the MLP that may need further adaptation to better fit a developing context may become more explicit.

This track is closed to new paper proposals.