20 Challenges for Innovation Policy Studies

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Ben Martin (University of Sussex)
12 Oct 2017 (Thursday)
4:00 - 5:00 pm
IAS1038, 1/F, Lo Ka Chung Building, Lee Shau Kee Campus, HKUST

Event Summary

With the field of innovation studies now half a century old, the occasion has been marked by several studies looking back to identify the main advances made over its lifetime. In his academic seminar, Ben Martin (University of Sussex) looks at a list of 20 advances over the field’s history, which include a move from the notion of individual entrepreneurs to corporate innovation activities and a shift from laissez faire to government intervention. Martin then sets out 20 challenges for coming decades not to issue a prescriptive list, but rather, to prompt a debate within the innovation studies community on what are, or should be, the key challenges for to take up, and more generally on what sort of field the community aspires to become.

It is argued that the focus of our empirical studies has failed to keep pace with the fast changing world and economy, especially the shift from manufacturing to services and the increasingly urgent need for sustainability rather than just economic growth, as well as the need for innovations that diminish rather than exacerbate inequality. Moreover, the very way we conceptualise, define, operationalise and analyse ‘innovation’ may be too rooted in the past, leaving us less able to grapple with other less visible or ‘dark’ forms of innovation be it in the area of services or in organizational or non-technological forms. Martin argues that developed indicators used to measure traditional forms of innovation are now missing much innovative activity not in the form of manufactured product innovations, involve little formal R&D, are not patented and involve a more incremental process than radical. The tendency to prefer measurable and traditional forms of innovation has also led to a neglect of of financial innovations which has the potential to contribute to the latest economic crisis, the growing polarity between rich and poor and the potential to shift and restructure economics to a new paradigm. In spite of significant poverty reduction achievements in China and in other emerging markets, Martin cites billions that are yet to benefit from economic and innovation development. This poses a challenge for the innovation studies community to develop the conceptual, methodological and analytical tools to facilitate the shift to innovation for sustainable development through appropriate policies.

About the Speaker

Ben Martin is Professor of Science and Technology Policy Studies at SPRU, where he served as Director from 1997 to 2004. He is also an Associate Fellow at the Centre for Science and Policy (CSaP), and a Research Associate at the Centre for Business Research, Judge Business School, both at the University of Cambridge. He has carried out research for over 30 years in the field of science policy. He helped to establish techniques for evaluating scientific laboratories, research programmes and national scientific performance. He also pioneered the notion of ‘technology foresight’. More recently, he has carried out research on the benefits from government funding of basic research, the changing nature and role of the university, the impact of the Research Assessment Exercise, and the evolution of the field of science policy and innovation studies. He had also published several papers on research misconduct. Since 2004, he has been Editor of Research Policy, and he is also the 1997 winner of the de Solla Price Medal for Science Studies.

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