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News / Symposium ’09: Session 4 – Internationalisation of science, technology and innovation policy – what room for “constitutional” reform?

In response to the set of proposals put forward in the New Manifesto (outlined by Andy Stirling), this session, chaired by Adrian Ely, discussed the potential for reform of institutions involved in setting STI policy (including governmental and non-governmental actors at national and international levels).

A particular focus was approaches that might catalyse increased democratic accountability to the stated beneficiaries of innovation policies.

– Prof Andy Stirling (Andy’s slides)
– Dr Des Turner MP
– Prof Sir Richard Jolly
– Prof Brian Wynne (Brian’s slides)
Speaker biographies

Andy Stirling tried to address some of the points that had been flagged up earlier in the day, especially about choice over trajectories, about the role of markets and demand, and the role of government, in doing so clarifying the STEPS Centre’s aim – to help catalyse a vigorous, reflexive democratic politics of innovation.

He put forward a characterisation of how high level policy discourse engages with innovation – one that dismisses choice between technologies and assumes a unitary notion of progress measured by linear metrics of rate and scale.

Andy then put forward an alternative view, focussing on different directions of innovation which delivered more or less equitably distributed and diverse outcomes. Running through some of the recommendations in the draft manifesto, he outlined the national and international reforms that might help to democratise innovation.

In response, Des Turner generally accepted most of the recommendations, but was clear that the draft manifesto needed shortening and simplifying before it would be taken up by most politicians. He stressed that social innovations allowing development and deployment were the challenge, rather than necessarily the “science and technology”, and that these were extremely difficult.

He did, however, point to some successes, for example the use of advance market commitments in providing the incentive for orphan drug development. In addition, Des highlighted problems of capacity and corruption in reporting to national parliaments on public R&D and innovation activities, suggesting that development agencies and NGOs need to redouble their efforts at building indigenous capacity.

He agreed with requirements for reporting by private firms, especially in terms of financing R&D and deployment, and the idea of strategic innovation forums (bearing in mind the concerns above). He highlighted that intellectual property regimes were already changing at international level, and also endorsed the idea of a global innovation commission, adding however that it should be regionalised.

Richard Jolly highlighted the shifts that had occurred since Hans Singer and his colleagues produced the original Sussex Manifesto – not only in terms of science and technology, but also through the rise of the Asian economies and moves towards a multi-polar world. Within this context, he argued that countervailing actions were necessary to offset pressures acting upon innovation from organisations such as the TRIPS regime.

With respect to demand issues, he highlighted the overwhelming impact of the USA’s 14 trillion dollar economy, and its pull on innovation resources (including backwash effects that might be limiting action in the South). He suggested that the new manifesto could draw on experiences with gender-responsive budgeting or children’s budgeting in order to address biases in inequitable allocations between groups.

On the recommendation for a global commission, he pointed out that there have been several global commissions (with various effectiveness) but that the modality for choosing members would need to be a key concern. His suggestion would be to focus on distinction – intellectual and analytical, rather than representation of the powers that be. It would also be important to see how the national strategic innovation forums could feed into the global monitoring.

Brian Wynne highlighted that policy makers usually assumed that institutional frameworks were static and fixed, and thus demanded new methods. This raises challenges and opportunities for the new manifesto’s recommendations.

Brian identified ‘rich world’ institutions as the problem in much of the ‘poor world’ and suggested that attention needed to be focussed on those in order to enable space and room to manoeuvre for the poor world. He focussed on a key sector – food – and used the example of the GMO controversy in the UK to demonstrate how scientists actually re-oriented their imaginations somewhat after the BBSRC 1994 consensus conference, and the subsequent years which saw spontaneous forms of public mobilisation, opposition and controversy. This provided an example of how different forms of public engagement had led to changes in science and technology, as illustrated by the BBSRC’s 2004 crop science review.

In the discussion, Roger Williamson highlighted the role of advance-market commitments for low-carbon technologies as well as in the pharmaceutical arena. He also pointed to the Kigali Institute for Science and Technology – an indigenous initiative that might serve as a model for positive replication. Richard Jolly followed this by suggesting that money and finance had generally been underemphasised in the discussion. No country will enact anything unless they have a budget.

Sheila Jasanoff suggested that implicit in the recommendations was the ghost of the Bretton Woods settlement – an international order constituted through national orders. She asked whether, in the face of demands on innovation being set by the needs of a $14 trillion economy, it was necessary to make room in the manifesto’s imagination for a really radical constitutional reconfiguration. Fred Steward pointed to the fact the dynamics within new institutions, not the institutions themselves, is what counts. Andy Stirling agreed, reiterating that these recommendations really represented an attempt at “constitutional judo” that would create room for more progressive dynamics.

Ehsan Masood raised argued that the Commissions that tend to work better are those where there is an established demand from policy makers, asking whether IPCC was actually a good example. Less successful was the millennium ecosystem assessment, with the IAASTD possibly being the least effective. With respect to the recommendations on private investment, he argued that regulatory change in the financial sector was a good example of where commercial firms have been regulated anew.

>> Full Symposium Report (PDF, 310KB)

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