SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit

Edges, horizons and transformations: the future of innovation policy

This week, SPRU hosted an event in London to debate the future of innovation policy in the UK, Europe and beyond, whilst also unveiling our research priorities and strategy for the period leading up to our 50th anniversary in 2016. The conference “Edges, horizons and transformations: the future of innovation policy” brought together a range of experts, academics and key stakeholders at the Royal Society of the Arts on 21 October 2014.

Taking place ahead of the Government’s publication of a new UK strategy for science and innovation later this autumn, the event generated a lively discussion on both innovation policy and ‘innovation from the edges’ as speakers explored the lessons, dilemmas and trajectories that could shape innovation in the UK, Europe and globally in the decades to come.

In his keynote address Professor Johan Schot, Director of SPRU, said: “Innovation policy is about the central issues of our time. It is about progress, the production of social value as well as democracy, gender, inequality, jobs and economic growth. It is also about the future of our energy, transport and digital infrastructures as well as the future of our healthcare and education systems.” Having set out SPRU’s research priorities and new (provisionally entitled) ‘Transformative Change’ strategy, Professor Schot also outlined how innovation policy often involves conflict, political power struggles and difficult trade-offs between the different interests and perspectives of various groups.

These conflicts, the role of the state and the challenges faced by Government in innovation policy were reflected in the dynamic conversation between The Rt. Hon Liam Byrne, Shadow Minister for Universities, Skills and Science and Professor Mariana Mazzucato, RM Phillips Professor in the Economics of Innovation, SPRU.  Speaking on the subject of new horizons of innovation policy, Professor Mazzucato emphasized the need for Government action and a shift of technology focus towards green, while the Shadow Minister, himself a former entrepreneur, set out his vision for innovation policy under Labour.

Further contributions at the event, which was chaired by Professor James Wilsdon, Professor of Democracy and Government, SPRU, came from: Professor Sandy Thomas, UK Space Agency, formerly Head of Foresight, Government Office for Science, who spoke about transforming innovation policy; Charles Leadbeater, author of ‘The Frugal Innovator’; Dr Sally Uren, Chief Executive Officer, Forum for the Future and Professor Andy Stirling, Professor of Science and Technology Policy, SPRU.

For more details, see Professor Johan Schot’s blog on The Guardian and the full transcript of his speech. 

Video recordings are available of each of the speeches.

Follow the discussion and debate via this Storify summary.


Access the new SPRU brochure, launched at this event. 

Papers disseminated at the conference are also available below:

Democratising Innovation - Andy Stirling

Beyond Market Failures, shaping and creating markets – Mariana Mazzucato

The event was part of a general SPRU engagement with issues of UK innovation policy, including the Mission-Oriented Finance for Innovation Conference held in July 2014 where Rt. Hon Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills gave a speech on Innovation and the UK's knowledge economy.

Transforming Innovation Policy

“Edges, horizons and transformations: the future of innovation policy” - October 21st 2014

All photos credit: Sophie Sheinwald Photography