The potential conflicts and trade-offs between economic objectives are as old as economics itself. Some aims can only be achieved at the expense of another objective, while others are complementary, reinforce each other and should be adopted at the same time. Yet paradoxically, changing just one policy might not have any effect at all or could even have a negative effect if other policies are not changed at the same time.
Climate change is a clear example of a conflict between local interests and global concerns, particularly in the context of the ‘public good’. Most developed countries are (or were) heavy polluters, and their industrialisation and rising living standards went hand-in-hand with pollution and CO2 emissions. But nowadays, even if developed countries shift to less-polluting technologies at home, their net contribution to global sustainability may be unchanged (or worse) if they outsource their old industries to low income countries.
Inequality is another example that often accompanies innovation. Take for example the phenomenon of superstar firms with enormous capitalisation, turnover and profit — which are usually concentrated in the most developed countries. Their success affects competition and employment both at home and abroad, yet the effects are most keenly felt in the Global South.
Although many poverty and empowerment programmes are based on lifting multiple barriers at the same time, this is harder to achieve if action is needed at different levels (e.g. firms and households, or highest managerial level and employees) and involves coordination between policymakers, donors and beneficiaries. Attempts to resolve conflicting policies and missing complementary factors are even harder to achieve where institutional or governance capabilities are weaker, i.e. in most developing countries. To gain insights into these problems we therefore need to:
i) Take a multidisciplinary approach including innovation, network science, geography and governance
ii) Extend the concept of innovation beyond the traditionally studied areas (and sectors) and also geographically, expand to countries around the world.
Overall the project will provide new insights on policymaking; insights that are able to accommodate conflicting policies and missing complementarities.