SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit

Transformative Innovation Policy Consortium

The Transformative Innovation Policy Consortium (TIPC) aims to mobilise the power of innovation for addressing a wide range of societal and global challenges including inequality, climate change and access to food and energy.

The Consortium examines and expands on current thinking on innovation and formulates a new way of framing innovation policy that can create and implement ground-breaking strategies and initiatives to transform systems and societies in a positive, constructive manner. This is termed ‘Transformative Innovation Policy’, and is also referred to as ‘Innovation Policy 3.0’. It does this through the co-production of knowledge with SPRU researchers and government policymakers from across the globe working directly together and involves building new platforms for a mutual learning process between the Global North and South and between research and policy. It innovates innovation itself. 

"The modern way of provisioning our basic needs is not sustainable in the long run and is already causing climate change, profound societal turmoil, tensions and conflict on an unprecedented scale. It is clear that we cannot globalise our current ways of providing food, energy, mobility, healthcare and water. The Transformative Innovation Policy Consortium aims to analyse our current world – which is in deep transition – and develop a new, shared rationale and vision for innovation policy." 

Professor Johan Schot, SPRU Director

The Transformative Innovation Policy Consortium was launched in September 2016 at the celebratory SPRU 50th Anniversary Conference. Founding members of the consortium involved in the exploratory phase are: 

  • Research Council of Norway
  • The South African National Research Foundation
  • Colombian Administrative Department of Science, Technology & Innovation – Colciencias
  • Swedish Governmental Agency for Innovation Systems – VINNOVA
  • Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation – Tekes
  • Science Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex

The Consortium team, comprised of researchers from SPRU and policymakers from each member country, have embarked on a process of examining and analysing their nations' policy mix across the three frames of innovation. This simultaneous, joint knowledge production between SPRU’s academics, policymakers and other key actors looks to co-produce a new perspective and understanding that will inform a fresh approach to innovation policy design and its results for society. The aim is to formulate, through joint action-led research, a new way of framing innovation policy that can create and implement ground-breaking strategies and initiatives to transform systems and societies in a positive, constructive manner. This is the central objective of the Transformative Innovation Policy Consortium. The TIPC will engage in policy examination, construction and experimentation and following development within the country and partnership context a programme of TIP implementation with knowledge-transfer, skills and training will commence. 

Transformative Innovation Policy is a new way of thinking about the strategy of innovation policy as outlined in the position paper - Framing Innovation Policy For Transformative Change: Innovation Policy 3.0 (Schot & Steinmueller, 2016). Present framings and models used by innovation actors are failing to meet the societal and environmental needs of ‘a world in transition’.  By examining ways to include a third framework in policy mixes the Consortium members recognise the growing need to find alternative methods of innovation that are supported by different assumptions and approaches to policy.

Transformative Innovation Policy, or as it is also termed ‘Innovation Policy 3.0’, looks to enable sustainability transitions across health, mobility, energy, security and food systems. Although chronologically termed ‘Innovation Policy 3.0’, it does not assume a linear path and anticipates that there will be policy mixes of the three approaches. Differing from the two previous established framings of innovation, namely the ‘R&D’ model and ‘National System of Innovation’, Innovation Policy 3.0’s inherent focus is on achieving positive outcomes for people and the environment. It does not converge on reaching economic outcomes which then assume improvement and growth. Transformative Innovation Policy sees ‘success’ as connected to a wider set of ecological and human principles. TIPC's underlying framing recognises that negative impacts or externalities of innovation can overtake positive contributions. This new frame focuses on mobilising the power of innovation for addressing a wide range of societal challenges including inequality and climate degradation. Transformative Innovation Policy emphasises strategies and initiatives for directing socio-technical systems into socially desirable directions to embed positive change.

Following the Consortium’s initial year, there will be a five year programme of development for transformative innovation policy programmes to be fully activated and embedded. The end of the 2017 pilot year offers the opportunity for a new round of member countries wishing to explore Transformative Innovation Policy to join. The inaugural TIPC conference will be hosted from 19th to 21st September 2017 by South Africa. Two regional hub meetings in South America and Africa will also be convened for interested members with dates to be confirmed shortly. These, and the conference, are for members and prospective members by invitation and give the opportunity to explore and understand the development and implementation prospects for innovation policies that are transformative for society and the environment.

Founding member comments

“Science, technology and innovation fundamentally contribute to promoting progress in Colombia. They provide solutions to the great challenges we face in building a long-lasting and stable peace. Our country has initiated a transformation phase which requires rethinking the ST&I policies of today - in order to rise to the occasion of this historic challenge.”

Alejandro Olaya Davila, Deputy Director of Colciencias, Colombia. 

“The directionality that the grand societal challenges provide is increasingly accepted by our research and innovation systems. Advanced and better science, technology and innovation are pointed to as the way forward. Yet, we also experience how the grand challenges entail challenges to ourselves as a research funding organisation. The challenge of addressing Grand Challenges - to cite a well-known title – has come to stay and is inviting us out of our comfort zone. At The Research Council of Norway many of us have been inspired by SPRU to venture out and experiment these last years. We are excited by the prospect of future "crossover" collaborations for continued learning and development - as envisioned by the Transformative Innovation Policy Consortium."

Anne Kjersti Fahlvik, Execute Director Division for Innovation, the Research Council of Norway. 

“As a leading science granting council, the National Research Foundation of South Africa values this strategic partnership. Different types of innovation play a role at various stages, and it is an opportune time to explore successful innovation experiments for a potentially different framework for development. A key challenge for innovation policy in emerging countries like South Africa is to encourage inclusive growth and support research addressing major social challenges – an important focus of the consortium. Managing for success through a focus on the factors that enhance impact is a joint objective of the programme, for a robust framework of engagement. SPRU’s leadership in this endeavour is clear and respected”

Dr Aldo Stroebel, Executive Director, International Relations and Cooperation (IRC), NRF. 

"The Department of Science and Technology is delighted that South Africa forms part of this pioneering consortium. Leveraging innovation policy to bring transformative change to our societies is a shared global challenge for nations across the world. Within the South African context, and our endeavour to more effectively harness science and technology to decisively fight our triple challenge of poverty, inequality and unemployment, the consortium presents an invaluable opportunity to share experience and expertise with global thought leaders and a diverse range of strategic partners. We look forward in anticipation to the joint learning by doing, with the emphasis on action, which the consortium will enable. We congratulate SPRU on this important initiative, a fitting milestone to celebrate its 50th anniversary."

Daan du Toit, Deputy Director-General of the International Cooperation and Resources, Department of Science and Technology, South Africa (part of the NRF).

Further information

Visit the Transformative Innovation Policy Consortium website and follow on Twitter: @TIPConsortium  

Subscribe to the TIPC Newsletter and read the Spring 2017 installment here.


For more information please email j.w.schot@sussex.ac.uk.