Innovation Studies: Some emerging challenges

Ben Martin , SPRU. University of Sussex

The field of innovation studies is now approximately half a century old. The occasion has been marked by several studies looking back to identify the main contributions and advances that have been made (see the Special Issue of Research Policy, Vol.41, Issue 7, September 2012). But is it possible to look forward and identify what are likely to be the principal challenges confronting the field over coming decades? In 1900, David Hilbert set out 23 major mathematical problems as challenges to the mathematics community over coming decades. These challenges were to spur the efforts of mathematicians for decades to come. Can one similarly identify a number of crucial challenges for scholars of innovation studies to address over coming decades?
To peer into the future to identify the challenges, we first need to build a robust viewing platform. Given the strong element of continuity and path-dependence involved, the foundations for this are probably best constructed from the major achievements of previous decades. Starting from a list of major advances over the field’s history, the paper proposes a number of challenges for coming decades. Some are couched in similar terms to the advances or major shifts identified over previous decades – i.e. ‘from X to Y’. Others represent more general challenges for the field of IS and its practitioners. These challenges and the underlying arguments have been deliberately couched in a blunt and sometimes critical manner to jolt the reader from taken-for-granted orthodoxies and cosy assumptions, and to encourage them to apply the critical lens that we normally apply to others instead to ourselves. The intention here is to prompt a debate among the innovation studies community on what are, or should be, the key challenges for us, and on what sort of field we aspire to be.

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 Senior Visiting Fellow 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. With John Irvine, he helped to establish techniques for evaluating scientific laboratories, research programmes and national scientific performance. They also pioneered the notion of ‘foresight’ as a process for looking into the longer-term future with the aim of identifying research areas and emerging technologies likely to yield the greatest benefits. He served on the Steering Group for the UK Foresight Programme during 1993-2000. 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. In 2004-05, he was Deputy Chair of the EU High-Level Expert Group that put forward the rationale for establishing a European Research Council in order to pursue ‘frontier research’. In recent years, he served as Chair of an ESF panel reviewing the possibilities for creating a research output database for the social sciences and humanities, was a member of the Royal Society ‘Fruits of Curiosity’ Group on the economic and social value of science, and served as Specialist Adviser to the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology. He has published seven books, eight monographs and official government reports, and over 60 journal articles. He is Editor of Research Policy, and the 1997 winner of the de Solla Price Medal for Science Studies.

Venue: Tongersestraat 53 (School of Business and Economics, Maastricht University) Room:A1.22

Date: 28 November 2012

Time: 12:00 - 13:30


UNU-MERIT