Public Policy and Governance of Innovation

Introduction and research areas

Global challenges related to poverty and inequality, migration, climate change, globalized markets, threats to democracy, disasters, and violence shape development trajectories at micro- meso and macro levels. Rising levels of inequality both within and between countries are for example associated with social, economic, and political exclusion of certain groups in society. This may affect resilience, political participation, government administration, and ultimately national and international policy decisions, including multilateral agreements. Also, climate change and natural disasters have been shown to disproportionately affect the poor thereby exacerbating poverty, existing inequalities, (forced) migration and violence leading to an increased rationale for government intervention. And rapid developments in artificial intelligence will impact demand for labour with potentially global distributional consequences.

Academic research can provide important insights into these matters thorough knowledge of the public policy process including multi-lateral and multi-level governance; evaluation of policy responses and their effects on human behaviour, and new insights into the applicability of big data. Research within the public policy and governance of innovation unit contributes to these topics through theoretical and empirical work, with an emphasis on the global South. The unit has an interdisciplinary focus using theories and concepts from economics, political science, sociology, and the psychology field thereby combining qualitative and quantitative methods.

The unit is organized into three research areas with specific topics linked to expertise embedded within the three academic chairs (social protection, migration, and public policy and development) as well as the overarching institutional agenda on comprehensive innovation.

Research area 1: Impact of shocks, public policies and programs on development outcomes

While great progress has been made in recent years, decision-makers often still rely on intuition, experience, ideology or selective, non-rigorous findings to respond to crises and select and fund certain programs and policies over others, without knowing which ones are best to promote societal wellbeing. Research within this area will focus on analyzing the impact of shocks, (natural, economic or epidemic disasters and political conflict), social innovations, public policies, and programs across the globe using rigorous assessment methods available and deemed appropriate for the context at hand.


  •  Social protection policy
  •  Migration & development
  •  Food security
  •  Labor market dynamics
  •  Gender mainstreaming


The scholarship will move beyond establishing impacts and will study potential trade-offs (e.g. reducing poverty may come at the expense of say environmental outcomes), spillovers, and underlying mechanisms that help unpack the black box of “what” “how” and why”.

Research areas 2: Sustainable governance

Governance is broadly understood as structures and processes that define how actors interact within a given institutional environment. Such an institutional environment may refer to formal decision-making authorities like multi-lateral or national government bodies, markets or firms, but could for example, also include informal social networks that are less likely to rely on explicit laws and regulations but are primarily organized around norms and culture. Research within this area for example looks at political and economic incentives and coordination issues at the country or sub-country level that may facilitate or impede efforts to develop and implement say international agreements to combat climate change, provide a coordinated crisis response (e.g. related to the migration and refugee crisis, the current pandemic, the recent floods in Western Europe among other things), or regional integration initiatives. Also, research questions related to preferences for redistribution and social justice, creating fiscal space, or scholarship investigating the quality of governance looking at corruption, the rule of law, accountability, or political stability fits here, as well as research that focuses on informal institutions and governance (e.g. culture and social norms), social innovations (e.g. community development, open-source) and their role in promoting inclusion.


  •  Taxation & redistribution
  •  Foreign & cross-border policies
  •  Corruption
  •  Social innovation
  •  Migration policy and governance

Research area 3: Big data and innovations in measurement

With close to 60 per cent of the global population using the internet, we generate enormous amounts of information that can be used to educate, understand, monitor, and influence governments, organizations, firms, and citizens across the world. Research within this area examines the application of data from mobile devices, GPS and Earth Observation data for objective real-time information on social protection policies, migration patterns and communication, environmental degradation, finance, disasters, and disease outbreaks to for example provide early-warning indicators or evaluate policy responses, thereby feeding into research area 1. In addition, information from social media platforms including Twitter, Facebook and other online networks may be useful in understanding societal sentiments, network formation, and for example how government entities, organizations or firms respond to demand for accountability, transparency, and (corporate) social responsibility. Research in this area may also focus on methodological improvements in measuring relevant variables (e.g. poverty, wellbeing, aspirations, gender attitudes, community cohesion etc.


  • Disaster response
  • Risk management
  • Migration drivers