Looking Back: EIBA & Eu-SPRI Summer School

Research Methods, Theories and Policies for Navigating the Complexities of the Digital Age

Early Career Summer School

25 – 29 July 2022

Como, Italy

Lake Como School of Advanced Studies

Organised by Politecnico di Milano

In late July, a lively group of 37 early career researchers travelled to Lake Como in the North of Italy, just across the Swiss border, to spend five eventful days in a picturesque Villa learning about the latest approaches in international business research. The Summer School was a joint initiative with the European International Business Academy (EIBA) and provided participants with tools to understand and tackle various dimensions of complexity in the current digital age, covering topics as diverse as knowledge creation across borders, global value chain formation, as well as the ‘twin transition’ of sustainability and digitalisation. One of the main focuses was on cutting-edge research methods and the challenges and opportunities they provide. The speakers made convincing pleas for methodological diversity and provided insights both on the theoretical foundations and practical implications of applying these diverse methods.

The 14-strong faculty offered an array of scientific tools: Among others, Bo Nielsen shared his enthusiasm for multi-level modelling, Carlo Piccardi gave an introduction on network analysis, Catherine Welch joined online to explore qualitative methods, Lucia Piscitello explained text & sentiment analysis and Carlotta Orsenigo provided insights into the intricacies of machine learning. Other speakers included John Cantwell, Agnieszka Chidlow, Marianna Marra, Torben Pedersen, Stefano Elia, Diletta Pegoraro and Silvia Massini. In the afternoons, the participants moved to the garden to discuss the relevance of the covered topics to their own research projects. Particularly invaluable for early career researchers, the senior academics shared their own perspective as journal editors, providing a look behind the scenes and giving concrete guidelines on how to get published in renowned scientific journals.

Whereas the Italian summer heat was challenging at times, the beautiful backdrop of the Como lake, surrounded by the Alps’ foothills and its shore littered with gorgeous villas, made every break feel like a little holiday. Naturally, the coffee was perfect and the food delicious, supplanted in the evenings by dinners at the plenty authentic restaurants in the town of Como. Discussions on both academic and research-unrelated topics continued with a glass of wine or an Aperol Spritz until the later hours, when some participants even demonstrated their musical abilities in a hostel lounge and at a karaoke night. What was most impressive was how, through the combination of a well thought out educational programme and informal socialising, these five days forged a group of young academics from universities across Europe and countries all over the world into what felt like a close-knit community. Above all, the Summer School showed the immense value of in person meetings like these after years of pandemic, allowing for intense learning, the exchange of various perspectives and networking for future collaborations.

Special thanks to Lucia Piscitello, Stefano Elia, Diletta Pegoraro, Tommaso Vallone and Cristina Di Stefano for organising this unforgettable experience.

Looking back: ECC in Dortmund

Social Innovation Policy: Concepts, Methods and Policy Practices

Early Career Conference

21 – 23 September 2022

Dortmund, Germany

Social Research Centre

Between 21 and 23 September, 16 international early career researchers (PhD candidates and Postdocs) and 8 senior social innovation scholars gathered at the Social Research Centre of TU Dortmund University to discuss the importance of social innovation policy. The Eu-SPRI Early Career Conference (ECC) was organized by the Social Research Centre, in collaboration with the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research (Fraunhofer ISI). Participants from Spain, France, Switzerland, Austria, the Netherlands, Denmark and Norway found their way to Dortmund to discuss a plurality of current issues, questioning, for instance the need for social innovation ecosystems and regional or local innovation policy, as well as their current state of affairs in Europe and beyond.

Although social innovations need not necessarily be ‘good’, expectations on their role to combat 21st century challenges are quite high, creating a demand for targeted policy making. However, as argued by several participants, effective policy-making for social innovations requires theoretical clarity of the concept and a better understanding of the dynamics of diffusion of social innovations. Impact (measurement) is a major challenge in this regard, as the impact of social innovations is difficult to capture, but crucial for policy making.

Social innovation can be seen as a boundary concept that brings together different fields of research, as underlined by the different disciplinary backgrounds of the participants, ranging from transition studies to management and feminist philosophy. One particular research challenge identified in the ECC is the relationship between social innovations and technological, digital and sustainable innovations and how these interconnections need to be addressed. Also the role of universities as one actor with potential to further social innovations was touched upon. However, social innovation is not merely an academic endeavour, it is above all a social phenomenon that not only needs to be studied, but that also needs space for practical application. The organisers were therefore happy to welcome Mike Asquith of the European Environment Agency to shed his light on the role of social innovation in sustainability transitions. To learn more about the importance of social innovation within the city of Dortmund, participants were invited by the Social Innovation Center Dortmund for an informal evening get-together. Participants got some insights into how social innovation is lived in the city of Dortmund and learned how social innovation played a role in Dortmund’s winning bid for the iCapital Award in 2021 with the slogan ‘Innovation Next Door.’

We look back at a successful and interesting Early Career Conference with lots of learning opportunities and network building with young scholars eager to further our knowledge on social innovations. We thank all presenters, seniors and juniors alike, for their engagement with the conference and look forward to continuing the discussions started in Dortmund.

Looking Back: Eu-SPRI 2022 in Utrecht

Challenging Science and Innovation Policy

Annual Conference

1 – 3 June 2022

Hosted by Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development at Utrecht University

After three years of COVID-related pause, the annual Eu-SPRI conference could finally be held in person again. Organised by the Innovation Studies Group from the Copernicus Institute for Sustainable Development of Utrecht University, Eu-SPRI 2022 took place in the beginning of June. It consisted of three days full of learning, sharing new insights, networking and “gezelligheid” at the social events, all in the historic and buzzing city centre of Utrecht, the Netherlands. It became clear that the academics and practitioners attending not only represent the cutting edge of research being done on science and innovation policy, but that they also form a thriving community. After years of online conferences, many were happy to finally reunite in real life. The conference venue, consisting of the “Academiegebouw”, the “Pandhof” (pictured above) adjacent to the Utrecht Cathedral and other old buildings surrounding the central Dom square, provided a beautiful backdrop for this reunion.

As one conference participant put it eloquently:

“It was so lovely to be able to be in beautiful Utrecht in person – a feast for the eyes, with all of the beautiful old buildings, and the brain, with all of the interesting presentations and conversations.”

Many participants echoed this sentiment, both during the conference and on Twitter. A sentence often uttered was “it’s great to be back!” and especially early career researchers realised the value of attending an in-person conference, which some of them did for the first time. As Nikhil John, PhD candidate in Utrecht, tweeted:

“I can’t believe how much this week’s #EuSPRI2022 supercharged my motivation, even for my own research. I utterly underestimated the impact of in-person conferences. Such a shame for my generation of PhDs and ERCs, it took 2.5 years to experience this…”

The conference was attended by more than 250 participants, coming from a range of countries and organisations. Naturally, Utrecht University provided the most attendants, but Fraunhofer ISI, University of Oslo, TU Delft, the Austrian Institute of Technology (AIT), University of Manchester and VTT Technical Research Center of Finland were also among those particularly well-represented. Whereas (as the first letters in Eu-SPRI suggest) most participant came from universities, research institutes and policy-making organisations within Europe, there were also some notable exceptions, with a great contribution from Israel and even attendants from countries as far as Brazil and New Zealand.

The sessions tracks ranged from familiar topics such as transformative and mission-oriented innovation policy, to research areas as diverse as the space sector or the role that justice, ethics and inclusion play in STI research and policy. Moreover, there were dedicated sessions by Eu-SPRI’s new Stakeholder Advisory Board (SAB), the Research Infrastructure for Science and Innovation Policy Studies (RISIS) and the Transformative Innovation Policy Consortium (TIPC). The SAB suggested new concrete initiatives to strengthen the connections between the science and innovation policy and academic communities and held a lively discussion on the matter. RISIS presented projects conducted by young researchers, enlightening how RISIS resources contributed to deepen and overcome particular issues. TIPC discussed the state of debate on the building of a Transdisciplinary, globally Accessible and Sustainable Knowledge Infrastructure (TASK-I) on Transformative Innovation Policy. Furthermore, each day had an interesting keynote, with Frank Miedema speaking on Open Science, Haroon Sheikh on Digitalisation and Philine Warnke on Foresight.

There was also more to be seen outside of the educational part of the conference. The three days provided attendants with the opportunity to experience the infamously unpredictable Dutch weather, with the rain fortunately followed by beautiful sunshine. Despite the sun, no one had to remain thirsty: the first day was concluded by a reception in the stunning Paushuize, the former residence of the only Dutch pope. Moreover, the second day coincided with Utrecht’s 900th anniversary as a city, filling the centre with celebratory events and joyous Utrechters. Conference participants could toast to this (and to many other things) after having dinner in the great hall of the Winkel van Sinkel. All in all, Eu-SPRI 2022 was thus a successful event and a pleasure to attend. The programme, paper abstracts and some full papers can be found on the Eu-SPRI 2022 conference website. We thank the members of the scientific committee, the organising committee, student assistants and all others who made this conference such a success! The next Eu-SPRI annual conference will take place in Brighton, UK and is organised by the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) of the University of Sussex.

Looking Back: TIP Conference

Building a Sustainable Knowledge Infrastructure on Transformative Innovation Policy (TIP)

Online Conference

17 – 21 January 2022

Transformative Innovation Policy Consortium

Organised by Eu-SPRI and TIPC and featuring global innovation and development agencies such as OECD and NESTA, the Transformative Innovation Policy (TIP) Conference 2022 took place in January. The innovative online format brought together researchers, policymakers and practitioners for five days of interaction, learning, network-building, agenda-setting and action on TIP research, policy and projects. The digital conference oriented around research and experimentation for projects and programmes that create the change required to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in both the Global North and Global South to achieve sustainability in systems of provision globally.

TIPC Academic Director and Founder, Professor Johan Schot reflected:

“The rich and deep interactions during the TIP Conference clearly showed the huge potential for building a knowledge infrastructure that works for action research, bringing together practitioners and scholars working on Transformative Innovation Policy. It is time to scale our fragmented efforts in order to address the Sustainable Development Goals. Leadership for such an infrastructure will come from both the Global South and Global North.”

TIP Conference Academic Director, Diana Velasco said:

“The 2022 TIP Conference was a significant milestone in building a sustainable and inclusive knowledge infrastructure for systemic transformation pathways. As a community of learning and practice, we have expanded our networks, insights and ideas. It was great to see the global interaction on the digital platform with 800 registered from over 60 countries. It is up to us all to keep the conversations and learning ongoing in our organisations and networks. Let’s keep the momentum, from our diverse community, to enhance more Transformative Innovation Policy experimental engagements to see the change we need for true system and societal transformations.”

The conference took an experimental approach, to part ways with traditional academic conferences. It offered new types of interactive panels, investment opportunities for research projects, themed networking sessions, daily learning seminars and, of course, happened online to allow access from across the globe. To ensure participation and contribution from the Global South, the conference was supported by donations and research funding from members and networks involved.

As SPRU Research Fellow and delegate, Claudia E. Obando R. tweeted:

“Delighted to see (the TIP Conference) moving forward to an online conference, that is not based on papers, doesn’t charge a fee to participants and is inclusive to different time zones across the globe. Huge congratulations to the organisers!”

Fellow organiser and co-chair, with Professor Schot, of the scientific committee, Mattias Weber said:

“The TIP Conference demonstrated the benefits of experimenting with new formats of interaction between research and practice and enabled an intense dialogue between participants from all over the world. It showcased new and promising ways of how TIP can be designed and implemented. The challenge is now to strengthen our knowledge base, networks and infrastructures to enable mutual learning and consolidate our community.”

Reflection and deep learning are a key aspect of the TIP approach and its methodology to move towards systems transformations. Each day of the conference featured interactive sessions to achieve a learning space for delegates to be present in their insight and behaviour change process and to share experiences. These sessions were among the richest. One participant concluded:

“The insights, richness of discussion, and the (learning) results are amazing. My favourite plenary of the conference was the learning one.”

All sessions were recorded and can be found online, either via the conference programme, or directly on the TIPC Youtube channel.