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Monday, 18 November 2019

Contextualising societal challenge-oriented innovation policy

Professor Iris Wanzenböck will outline rationales for a more geographical (regional) perspective on challenge-oriented innovation policies.

Event Time
18 Nov 15:30 - 18 Nov 16:30
Event Location
Room 9.041, Alliance Manchester Business School, Booth Street West, Manchester, M15 6PB
Event Type

Iris Wanzenböck is an Assistant Professor at the Innovation Studies Group, Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development at Utrecht University. She holds a PhD in Economic Geography from the WU Vienna University of Economics and Business, a master degree in Economics (WU) and a master degree in Political Science (University of Vienna). She has a broad interest in the geographical structure and governance of innovation. In her research she combines insights from economic geography, network theory and innovation policy. Her current work focuses on new forms of research and innovation policy, in particular innovation policy for societal challenges and transformative change.

There is emerging consensus that innovation policy should focus on solving urgent societal problems rather than economic goals alone (Weber and Rohracher 2012, Schot and Steinmueller 2018). This has spurred interest into challenge- or mission-oriented types of innovation policy (Edler and Boon 2018, Mazzucato 2018). Relatively undisputed in the innovation policy literature is the view that societal challenges are more unstructured, multidimensional and complex (i.e. more wicked) than the former economic or technological challenges, which calls for new rationales, capabilities and governance modes for innovation policy.

The literature has remained relatively silent about the different nature of societal challenges and lacks approaches to cope with their heterogeneity. Different societal problems may require different types of solutions (technological and institutional). Also, challenges do not present themselves as the same for every region; they affect places in different ways and extents. A central element of directional, challenge-oriented approaches can be seen in ensuring legitimacy to govern selected problems and the implementation of certain solutions. Despite labels of ‘grand’ or ‘global’, many societal problems will however remain highly contextual in geographical terms.

In this talk, she will first suggest an analytical decomposition of societal challenges into a problem and solution side based on the degrees of wickedness. She will argue that both problems and solutions can be diverging (contested, complex, uncertain) or converging (uncontested, well-defined, informed), and derive governance strategies for different problem-solution constellations to support transforming wicked problems into legitimate solutions. Later on, she will also outline rationales for a more geographical (regional) perspective on challenge-oriented innovation policies.

Refreshments will be available 15 minutes prior to the start of the event.