SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit

‘Transforming innovation’ 50th Anniversary Conference

To celebrate its 50th Anniversary, SPRU hosted a major conference earlier this month (7-9 September 2016), based on the overarching theme of ‘Transforming Innovation’. The 50th Anniversary Conference was attended by over 550 delegates from across the globe and from academia, civil society, business and government.

Over three sunny September days, our building and campus were filled with a wonderfully strong positive atmosphere and a real sense of community. It was a pleasure to see so many alumni and ex-staff mingling with new PhD and Masters students.

The event commenced with Professor Johan Schot, Director of SPRU, announcing the establishment of ‘The Transformative Innovation Policy Consortium’ (TIPC) – a new global consortium of scientists, experts and policy officials that aims to address global challenges, such as access to food and energy, rising inequality and climate change.

Watch Professor Schot’s opening address on ‘Research and policy agenda for a world in transition’ in which he explores the need to ‘rethink’ innovation and proposes a new understanding of innovation.

The TIPC is based on a new frame - ‘Innovation 3.0’ - which recognises that negative impacts or externalities of innovation can overtake positive contributions, and focuses on mobilising the power of innovation to address a wide range of societal challenges including inequality, unemployment and climate change. The Consortium aims to use this new framing of innovation to explore the future of innovation policy – its foundation, formulation and governance.

This was followed by Professor Lord Stern delivering the Chris Freeman Anniversary lecture on the groundbreaking work of Chris Freeman (SPRU’s founder) and the precedence his ideas have gained over the last few decades.

Watch Professor Stern’s talk – entitled ‘Creativity, change and constraints’ – in which he describes how Chris's ideas have influenced his own work in regards to climate change, microeconomic development and essentially how change occurs. He argues that "unless we have some understanding of the processes we cannot understand how to influence them."

The conference proceeded with thought-provoking keynote speeches alongside high-quality paper presentations and expert panels, a selection of which are available to watch again online:

Branching into parallel sessions, the afternoon of Day One saw a number of high-profile dialogue sessions, with a focus on policy- and practitioner-oriented topics. View the full Conference programme (p. 13 onwards) for details of these and other parallel sessions.

Throughout the event, participants were encouraged to exchange ideas and knowledge, develop research collaborations and shape new projects and publication plans, and reunite with previous colleagues and friends. In true SPRU spirit, attendees assembled at the end of Day Two for an enthusiastically energetic evening at Brighton Dome.

The conference was closed on Day Three by SPRU’s PhD students, in their summary session ‘Out of the box and into the future’. Having assembled an interactive timeline of innovation in recent history – to which delegates were encouraged to contribute throughout the conference – the students collated thematic analysis with participant feedback to wrap up the three-day event. Combining a Conference-wide farewell with a personal thank you to their mentor Ed Steinmueller, the doctoral students raised the audience to a standing ovation – a fitting finale to a fantastic conference.

As SPRU looks to the future, with the new Transformative Innovation Policy Consortium among other initiatives, we endeavour to continue – in the words of Chris Freeman – to ‘make the world a better place.’

Further information:

Read the full SPRU 50th Anniversary Conference programme

Revisit the event on the SPRU 50th Anniversary Conference Storify

View the event photographer's gallery from the SPRU 50th Anniversary Conference and gala dinner

Watch video recordings from the event on the SPRU Youtube channel

Watch conference participants discussing '50 years of SPRU in 50 seconds'