Circulation report: Studying the Dynamics of Global Value Chain Reconfigurations at MIOIR

Diletta Pegoraro is an Early Career scholar researching the Dynamics of Global Value Chain Reconfigurations at the Department of Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering – Politecnico di Milano. She declines this topic in three major disciplines: Innovation, International Business and Economic Geography. During her Eu-SPRI-funded circulation at MIOIR (University of Manchester) she was able to further development the conceptual framework of PLOTTI (Place Leaders Of Twin Transition in the Italian local manufacturing systems, a project PRIN 2022 PNRR Next Generation EU – CUP E53D23016560001).

In this piece of writing she shares her experience and working in a different department and in which way this circulation award helped to enlarge her existing networks and create new collaboration.

In this post I will compare the Early Career Scholar (ECS) to a Sequoia tree and it will explain how the Eu-SPRI-funded circulation helps ECS to foster their immense inner potential for personal and academic growth. Both EC and Sequoia possess a deep-rooted foundation in learning and preparation. As sequoia absorbs knowledge from its environmental and bio-system, ECS actively seeks out experiences and collaborations for expanding knowledge. As the sequoia reaches skyward, its branches intertwine with others, forming a supportive network in where other species can find their home. Similarly, the ECS builds connections with peers and mentors, creating a symbiotic community that fosters collective knowledge and progress. However, only the right combination of environmental factors allows sequoia to become majestic trees, without then, sequoia remain only twigs. It is the same for an ECS, while growth opportunities are many, choosing the right option for the ECS program is crucial, as each option leads to different educational pathways.

As Sequoia needs the right environmental factors for thriving, also ECS needs access to resource and funding. The Eu-SPRI mobility programme is a perfect fit for this goal, as it enable the majestic growth of the ECR.

The visit to MIOIR proved strategically crucial for advancing the conceptual framework I’m developing. This framework will lay the theoretical foundation for a larger project named PLOTTI. My visit coincided with the GEOINNO2024 Conference, organized by MIOIR itself. Before the conference, I invited MIOIR scholars to contribute to my session, where I presented the framework in its early-stage development. Further discussions and valuable feedback continued throughout my visit at MIOIR.

Beyond actively working on the project, I immersed myself in the lively and active department, attending seminars and activities. The pre-seminar coffee meetings provided the perfect opportunity to pitch my research and receive immediate, friendly feedback from esteemed scholars. Of particular importance was the guidance I received from Professor Silvia Massini. Her expertise in innovation diffusion and digital technologies proved invaluable. With her help, I was able to refine the conceptual framework for accelerating the adoption of digital technologies for more sustainable living.

Joining the Eu-SPRI Circulation Programme can help you build a thriving research network by connecting with researchers from diverse institutions and disciplines. The visiting period provides valuable resources like access to research facilities, funding for travel and accommodation, and opportunities to collaborate with leading experts. To maximise your experience, develop a compelling timeline that highlights your research goals and aligns them with the host institution’s expertise. Connect with your tutor early to get feedback on your proposal and discuss research opportunities. Don’t hesitate to explore additional collaborations by scheduling meetings with other researchers at the host institution. Remember, this program isn’t about become the highest sequoia but about laying the basis for allowing a prosperity growth of your branches through collaborations and exchanges.

In conclusion, while separated by species and age, we ECS and the sequoia share a remarkable kinship, both standing tall with the promise of a flourishing future.

ECC Eu-SPRI 2024, Sustainability in Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Policies: Between Complexity and Uncertainty, Rome, March 2024

A group of people smiling at the camera

By Serena Fabrizio and Antonio Zinilli (CNR-IRCrES)

The Eu-SPRI Early Career Researcher Conference (ECC) 2024, entitled “Sustainability in Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Policies: Between Complexity and Uncertainty”, took place in Rome on 6-8 March 2024, at the CNR-IRCrES – the Research Institute for Sustainable Economic Growth of the National Research Council of Italy.

The ECC brought together scholars from different fields to explore the impact of science, technology, and innovation policies on long-term sustainable development and equitable growth. The Conference delved into the complexities and uncertainties surrounding STI policies, intending to uncover potential synergies between these policies and the realization of sustainable goals.

An image of students in a classroomThe event began with the opening by the Chair of the Conference Antonio Zinilli, CNR-IRCrES, who spoke about the Eu-SPRI Forum and important European infrastructures in social sciences and economics, such as RISIS (the European Research Infrastructure for Science, technology and Innovation policy Studies). This addition was pertinent given the significant use of this infrastructure in a large part of the conference presentations. The conference proceeded with a stimulating keynote speech by Arash Hajikhani entitled “Tracing the Trajectory: Evolution and Impact of Sustainable Development Activities in Science, Technology, Innovation and Business”.

 

A session on business and technological innovation, chaired by Lucio Morettini, featured presentations on topics such as innovations in the hospitality sector during the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact of digital technologies on business financing. The day ended with a reflective closing session.

The second day began with a session on the dynamics of research funding, chaired by Andrea Orazio Spinello, where discussions focused on patterns of collaboration in the EU Framework Programmes, gender considerations in R&D funding, and the importance of proximity in government-funded research partnerships. Laura Piscicelli’s keynote on “How does a circular economy contribute to sustainability?” set the stage for discussions during a session on Innovation Policy and Sustainability, chaired by Antonio Zinilli. Topics included the relationship between technology and sustainability, income inequalities in innovation, and the geographical aspects of green innovation in Italy. The day concluded with a session on the Positioning of R&D Actors, chaired by Lorenzo Giammei.

On the final day, an Open session moderated by Serena Fabrizio covered topics as diverse as the influence of research evaluation on researchers’ agendas and how social media platforms respond to criticism. Giovanni Cerulli’s keynote on “Data-driven decision making: potential and limitations” offered insights into future directions.

Students in a classroomThrough insightful keynotes, thought-provoking sessions, and engaging discussions, participants gained effective perspectives on navigating the complexities and uncertainties inherent in shaping sustainable development agendas.

Students in a classroomAs we bid farewell to ECC 2024, we take with us a renewed commitment to harnessing the power of STI policy to drive positive change and promote inclusive growth. By fostering collaboration across disciplines and sectors, we will be better equipped to address the multiple challenges facing our societies and indicate the way for a more sustainable future.

A group of people smiling at the camera

Thank all participants, organizers, and sponsors for their contributions to the success of ECC Rome 2024.

#AI4STIP 2023: Eu-SPRI ECR school explores the intersections of AI, science, policy, and ethics

By Philipp Baaden, Priscila Ferri, and John P. Nelson

In November 2023, 31 early-career researchers from Europe and elsewhere gathered in Manchester, England, for the week-long Artificial Intelligence for Science, Technology, Innovation and Policy Winter School (#AI4STIP). With Eu-SPRI sponsorship, #AI4STIP brought these researchers together to delve into the intricate interplay of AI, scientific progress, ethical research, and policy shaping. Hosted by the Manchester Institute for Innovation Research (MIOIR), located at the University of Manchester’s Alliance Manchester Business School, the event offered an immersive program on the governance, ethics, scientific implications, and research applications of artificial intelligence.

To capture the collective wisdom and different insights gained during the event, we asked the participants to provide us with feedback on the most important learning they had gained while at #AI4STIP. The breadth of responses mirrored the depth and diversity of the program’s content as well as the diversity of research backgrounds. To synthesize these perspectives, we used a large language model (LLM), which offered the following summary:

“Through the AI4STIP Winter School, I’ve gained an immersive understanding of AI’s multifaceted dimensions, witnessing its potential applications and the tools available, notably large language models. This experience not only expanded my technical prowess but also heightened my awareness of AI’s ethical and societal implications, emphasizing responsible and strategic usage across diverse research domains.”

These reflections are rooted in the expertise shared across three key instructional tracks curated by leaders in the field of AI for science and innovation, showcased at #AI4STIP.

The first track, spearheaded by Philip Shapira (University of Manchester and Georgia Tech) and Justin B. Biddle (Georgia Tech), focused on ethics, societal implications, and emerging global governance structures for AI. These sessions guided attendees on the potential stakes of AI development and implementation. These ranged from job loss to intellectual property disruption to much-discussed extinction threats. The global landscape of AI investment and leadership was considered, along with the effects (or, sometimes, lack thereof) of the proliferation of AI ethics guidelines and relatively slow growth of AI regulation.

In #AI4STIP’s second track, VTT’s Arash Hajikhani and Carolyn Cole provided attendees with examples, instruction, and hands-on practice in applications of LLMs to science and innovation policy research. Attendees learned about the architecture and functioning of LLMs, available commercial and open-source tools for use of LLMs in research, and examples of use of LLMs for large-scale qualitative classification, fuzzy searches and content summaries within documents, and bibliometric trends analysis.

Throughout the week, attendees completed hands-on small-group projects using the ChatGPT API and other commercial LLM research tools to analyze and visualize documentary evidence such as journal articles and reports.

The third track, led by Barbara Ribeiro (SKEMA) and Cornelia Lawson (University of Manchester), shed light on AI’s impacts within scientific realms. Ribeiro highlighted the paradox of automating lab research leading to new “mundane knowledge work” and discussed the differential impact of AI across researchers of different levels of seniority and other demographic groups. Lawson presented on digital technologies’ and AI’s potential effects on scientific team size, collaboration, and institutional advantage, and provided preliminary findings on relationships between AI use, project initiation, and university types (among other variables).

Complementing these tracks were keynote addresses and informal evening “fireside chats” from invited speakers. Laurie Smith presented on Nesta’s experimentation with AI for social good, such as providing chatbot interfaces to support parents in dealing with health problems or designing activities for children. Alistair Nolan (OECD), advocated for adoption of AI in science as a way to increase the productivity of research and suggested policies to facilitate further development and adoption of AI for science. Elle Farrell-Kingsley (AI Curator and Dialogue Writer) provided attendees a look into the ground-level processes by which LLM developers try to make their tools safe, reliable, and comfortable—but not excessively humanlike in presentation. Parsa Ghaffari (Quantexa) offered an industry perspective on the evolution of decision-making applications from natural language processing to generative AI and LLMs. Samuel Kaski (University of Manchester and Alto University) spoke with attendees about his goals, decision-making processes, and treatment of societal consequences as a leading AI researcher.

MIOIR’s Holly Crossley and Chloe Best provided highly effective support in organizing and running the Winter School.

Despite a packed schedule, attendees bonded over meals and explored Manchester, engaging in activities such as visiting Christmas markets, touring the Old Trafford football stadium, and viewing the Manchester Science and Industry Museum.

The AI for Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy Winter School was supported by the European Forum for Studies of Policies for Research and Innovation (Eu-SPRI Forum), the Manchester Institute of Innovation Research, and the Alliance Manchester Business School. Additional support for student and faculty travel was provided by the Georgia Tech School of Public Policy and the Ivan Allen College, the Partnership for the Organization of Innovation and New Technologies (Polytechnique Montréal, Canada), and VTT Finland.

Philip Baaden is a PhD student at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum and at Fraunhofer INT interested in the evolutionary process of new interdisciplinary scientific fields. Priscila Ferri is a PhD student in science, technology and innovation policy at the MIOIR, University of Manchester, and is examining how AI shapes research and innovation practices in academic laboratories. John P. Nelson is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Georgia Institute of Technology’s School of Public Policy, focusing on ethics and societal implications of AI.

Interview with Eu-SPRI member InnoLab (University of Vaasa)

In autumn 2023 Eu-SPRI was delighted to welcome a new organisation to the network – the InnoLab at the University of Vaasa.

We caught up with Helka Kalliomäki, Associate Professor at the School of Management, University of Vaasa, and member of the InnoLab research platform.

Can you tell us a bit about the InnoLab, its research focus and how you came to join the Eu-SPRI network?

Would be happy to! InnoLab – Innovation and Entrepreneurship research platform – is a phenomenon-based, multidisciplinary open research platform at the University of Vaasa in Finland. We are a young platform, established in 2019, but within a short period of time, we have been successful in creating an authentic network of collaborative partners who represent science, society and industry in a versatile manner, nationally and internationally.

Our research is organised in three thematic clusters: society and systems, transformational innovation, and consumer and user-centric innovation. In these clusters, we aim at capturing innovation activities at all levels. In all areas we have a constantly evolving externally funded project portfolio, which enables us to combine internationally ambitious research with high societal and practical relevance.

Within our university, we are a multidisciplinary group of about 30 researchers, having our disciplinary homes at one of the four schools (management, marketing and communication, accounting and finance, and technology and innovations) and joined together by our interest in innovation and entrepreneurship studies. In addition, doctoral students are a key part of our community and participate actively in our activities, often as project and grant funded researchers. We also continue to host 10-15 international visitors, with whom we collaborate actively in externally funded projects, education initiatives and joined writing projects.

We heard about the Eu-SPRI network few years ago, and immediately noticed that the forum is very relevant for us in terms of our strategic goals and research areas. After participating to our first Eu-SPRI conference in 2021, we started exploring the network more closely and decided to pursue the membership. 

How is the work of the Innolab relevant to the Eu-SPRI? What opportunities are you hoping will open up due to Vaasa joining the Eu-SPRI network?

Our core research areas are directly related to the focus areas of the Eu-SPRI, and we of course hope that our membership will be mutually beneficial for both us and the Eu-SPRI network members. Our ambition is to become internationally recognized for our research in the broad area of transformational innovation, and we believe our work on innovation systems and eco-social transitions to deliver sustainable transformation through public policy will set us apart from other institutions. Related to our ambition, we wanted to join the Eu-SPRI network to become an active member of this interdisciplinary science and innovation policy studies community in Europe. We believe that we have a lot to offer for the network through our versatile international workshops and events, as well as our expertise in transformational innovation. In the future, we increasingly wish to join forces with European colleagues in research topics of joined interest, hopefully leading to new collaborations also in EU funding bids.

Great opportunities for our young researchers was also one of the main reasons for us to pursue this network membership. In an internationally recognised research university it is necessary that our doctoral researchers and early-career scholars can build their capacities and networks in an international research environment and learn from the best. We believe that the membership opens many doors for that.

How do you hope to participate in the agenda of Eu-SPRI?                     

We want to be part of building the SPRI research agenda in the forthcoming years. We look forward to working with our colleagues across Europe on strengthening this important research area through joint research initiatives and events, also related to supporting the next generation of scholars. In addition, I am personally very interested in studying and developing new forms of dialogue and interaction between researchers and policy practitioners, so I am also excited about the stakeholder engagement mission of the network and wish to contribute to that in the future. We have good models in Finland that I believe are worth spreading and developing further in collaborative European arenas!

Which activities are you planning to engage in and what kind of events would you hope to organise (on your own or with other partner organisations)?

The first thing on our to do list this autumn was to submit a track proposal to next summer’s Eu-SPRI conference, which we just did together with our VTT colleagues from Finland. The proposal is related to inclusion as an innovation policy objective, which we have been exploring in several research and development projects recently. After this, we plan to contact Eu-SPRI colleagues concerning summer school organising next year. Next, I believe, we should also start planning for hosting the annual conference some time soon!

Finally, where do you see STI research headed in the coming decade and what are the most pressing challenges the field is looking to address? How do you see InnoLab in collaboration with the Eu-SPRI network address these challenges?

Obviously societal transitions and ways of successfully implementing transformative and mission-oriented approaches to STI policy require a lot of attention from our research community in the forthcoming years. InnoLab will participate to those efforts with our ongoing and future research projects, hopefully increasingly in collaboration with our Eu-SPRI colleagues. Currently, for example, we are studying mission-oriented innovation policy and its connections to systems of use, exploring ways to build connections between top-down agenda setting and bottom-up agency. Altogether, the versatile expertise of InnoLab members in the area of transformational innovation is very well connected to the key topics of the Eu-SPRI network, offering a good basis for collaboratively addressing key challenges together with Eu-SPRI colleagues.

 

Eu-SPRI 2023 Annual Conference at SPRU, University of Sussex

This blog originally appeared on SPRU’s website and has been reproduced with the permission of the authors.

On Wednesday 14 – Friday 16 June 2023, the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) based at the University of Sussex Business School, proudly hosted the European Forum for Studies of Policies for Research and Innovation Conference (Eu-SPRI 2023). Eu-SPRI’s annual conference is the European event for scholars and policymakers in the fields of science, technology, and innovation (STI) policy, providing a dynamic platform for exchanging ideas, presenting emerging research, and fostering valuable networks.

Supporting the development of early career researchers in this field is a key part of the Eu-SPRI Forum’s work. Prior to the conference on Tuesday 13 June, SPRU hosted the Eu-SPRI Early Career Researcher event in association with the 29th SPRU PhD Forum. Welcoming participants from a diverse range of institutions, this event provided a supportive space for early career researchers to present and discuss their work, hear talks from guest speakers and network in a friendly environment, before continuing to the main conference. 

Research with Impact

The conference’s first day began with an opening ceremony chaired by Michael Hopkins, the Chair of the conference’s organising committee, with welcome addresses by SPRU’s director, Jeremy Hall and Eu-SPRI’s president, Emanuela Reale.

Crowd of attendees in Business School lecture theatre for Eu-SPRI 2023 Conference

The theme of this year’s conference, ‘Research with Impact’, reflects the increasing focus within STI policy globally on ensuring that researchers engage with wider stakeholders to deliver positive economic impact and address societal challenges. This reflects the growing societal expectations placed on research and innovation, and increased concerns about how well research systems are aligned with the changing needs of society. Demand for research with impact has generated changes in how research is funded, evaluated, organised and disseminated. Eu-SPRI 2023 was a platform for the exploration of these questions amongst international colleagues.

The conference featured 25 Tracks and five Special Sessions organised by scholars in the field, capturing the latest developments in a broad range of science policy related areas. Participants discussed topics such as transformative innovation, sustainability transitions, policy implications and transdisciplinary research.

The first day of the conference featured a captivating keynote speech by Professor Kathryn Oliver from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, University of London, entitled ‘Feet on the ground and head in the clouds: can we be both pragmatic and ambitious for research with impact?’.

Members of the Eu-SPRI Stakeholder Advisory Board: Philippe Larrue, Christian Naczinsky, and Tatiana Fernandez Sirera, with the participation of Emanuela Reale and Stephanie Daimer, hosted a keynote panel on Day Two, exploring how to promote dialogue with policymakers for the design and implementation of science and innovation policies. The panel, sponsored by RISIS, incorporated open debate and examined the emerging needs and forthcoming actions in this area. 

Speakers Leonie von Drooge and Ben Martin during keynote debate

The third and final day of the conference saw an engaging keynote debate addressing the motion that ‘The growing use of evaluation and analysis of impact has gone too far so that it is now damaging research’. The debate speakers were Ben Martin, Professor of Science & Technology Policy Studies at SPRU, and Leonie van Drooge, Owner of LvD Impact & Evaluation, with the debate chaired by Paul Nightingale, SPRU. 

In addition to the varied academic programme, an exciting selection of social activities were available to attendees, adding a touch of excitement and relaxation to the event. On the first day, participants could take flight on the iconic Brighton i360, a breath-taking observation tower offering panoramic views above Brighton seafront, featuring a sky bar. The Brighton i360 social was kindly sponsored by the Technopolis Group. Alternatively, guests could enjoy drinks and nibbles at the Ohso Social Bar, a popular beach bar within the heart of Brighton’s vibrant atmosphere, kindly sponsored by RISIS.

Day Two saw delegates attend a Gala dinner at the DoubleTree Hilton Metropole, for a memorable evening of mingling and discussion. The conference’s final day closed with farewell drinks at the Grand Central pub in the city centre, featuring live music that had the audience on their feet, singing along. 

Hosting the Eu-SPRI 2023 Conference was an honour for SPRU and the Business School. It was fantastic to welcome so many colleagues to our campus for the largest Eu-SPRI conference yet, and we hope that all participants enjoyed their experience with us!

Congratulations to all dedicated Sussex staff for producing such a successful, well-attended event, with special thanks to the academic organising committee: Professor Michael Hopkins, Professor Paul Nightingale, Dr Adrian Ely, Dr Katherine Lovell, Professor Adrian Smith, Dr Bipashyee Ghosh, Dr Chux Daniels, Dr David Eggleton, Dr Joshua Moon, Dr Matias Ramirez, and Dr Xiangming Tao

We would also like to express our gratitude once again to our sponsors for their generous support and contribution to the #EuSPRI23 Conference – our sincere thanks to RISIS, Technopolis Group, Edward Elgar Publishing, and Policy@Sussex. 

The Eu-SPRI 2024 Conference will be hosted by the University of Twente in the Netherlands with the theme ‘Governing Technology, Research, and Innovation for Better Worlds’. We look forward to another inspiring gathering of the Eu-SPRI community.

The EU-SPRI Circulation Award: A Valuable Opportunity for Early Career and Doctoral Researchers

Arthur Moreira is a PhD Student studying the Economics of Innovation at the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at the University of Sussex. During his Eu-SPRI-funded circulation at CIRCLE (Lund University) he was able to advance his research for his PhD thesis ‘Mission-oriented innovation policy organisations: definition, impact, and the knowledge production trajectory of the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation’. In this blog he shares his experience of living and working abroad and how his circulation helped develop his academic skills.

Aspiring researchers who work in the area of research & innovation policy studies and are affiliated to one of the 18 member organisations in Europe can benefit greatly from the EU-SPRI Circulation Award. This programme offers researchers the opportunity to work with a host institution in a different country, where they can exchange knowledge, develop new ideas, and build valuable relationships.

The Award is designed to promote the exchange of knowledge and experience among researchers and institutions in the field of Science, Technology and Innovation policy. One of the key benefits of the programme is the opportunity to work with someone you can choose to help you address your specific needs to help you improve your research. Perhaps one has an idea they want to explore, perhaps they need to learn a new method for their paper or perhaps they need to discuss their work with a different audience, refine their research ideas and approaches with diverse fresh detailed and encouraging feedback. This provides a unique opportunity for researchers to receive guidance and support from a recognized expert in the field, in an experienced tailored to your needs.

In my case the discussions with the host supervisor were paramount to strengthening the theoretical background of my thesis, enabling me to write a better-grounded contribution. When I could more clearly place my contribution in relation to the theory, it became easier to concentrate my efforts on addressing the relevant literature. The discussions proved so fruitful that I obtained concrete outcomes from it before the expected main ones involving the publication of the thesis. I had a short paper accepted in a peer-reviewed STI journal, I was invited to present it in a seminar with other young scholars and later, following the same line of thought, submitted an entry to and won a prize in a doctoral essay competition.

Beyond these concrete benefits, the EU-SPRI Circulation Programme also provides a valuable opportunity for researchers to broaden their perspectives, by being exposed to new ideas, experiences and people. This can be especially important for early-stage researchers who are still exploring their research interests and career pathways. In addition to working with a host supervisor, I had the chance to also present my work in one of the weekly internal meetings, where I received constructive feedback from other researchers at the host institution. This is a great opportunity not only to receive feedback from a diverse range of perspectives, but also to build confidence addressing a community where you are not originally part of.

Participating in the EU-SPRI Circulation Programme can also provide valuable networking opportunities, which can be essential for future career opportunities. By building relationships with researchers and institutions in different countries, researchers can expand their professional network, and potentially open up new career opportunities in the field.
The Award is the perfect chance to bring your contribution to the level of rigour demanded in dealing with our current urgent socioeconomic and ecological challenges via STI policy.

Looking back: Eu-SPRI ECC PhDays at INGENIO in Valencia, Spain

Addressing old and new social challenges: knowledge, policies, inclusion

Early Career Conference

8 – 10 February 2023

Valencia, Spain

Ingenio

Organised by Universitat Politècnica de València (UPV)

Between February 8 and 10, INGENIO hosted the 7th edition of its Eu-SPRI Early Career Conference, this time entitled “Addressing old and new social challenges: knowledge, policies, inclusion”. The event, which is organized entirely by PhD students for PhD students, gathered more than 60 early career researchers from 30 different academic institutions. Particularly strong representation was recorded from the host institution, but also Gran Sasso Science Institute and Politecnico di Milano in Italy. Over the span of three days, the participants had the chance to present their work in a friendly and welcoming environment, receive constructive feedback from senior researchers and briefly step into the shoes of reviewers by discussing each others’ written abstracts. Thematically, the 22 parallel sessions encompassed a wide range of issues – from sustainability transitions and green technologies to feminist organizational change, ethics, and gender-lens investing.

 “I think this conference was very informative and heartwarming” – shared An Yu (University of Manchester) – “which is really fitting for early-career PhD students like myself. I’ve been encouraged by this experience and have more faith in my academic career.”

A notable highlight in the opening day of the conference was the keynote address of Professor Elisa Giuliani from the University of Pisa, whose research on the dark side of innovation captivated the attention of the young scholars and elicited a stimulating discussion on the need to prioritize early detection of harmful substances and company practices, before they reach the market. On the following day, Professor Lars Coenen from the Western Norway University of Applied Sciences delivered the second keynote address of the event, which highlighted both the opportunities and the challenges of implementing missions, transformations and experimentalist policy approaches on the ground. 

“I would like to thank you again for the wonderful work that you did in organising such a vibrant conference. I loved being part of it and I think it was one of the best conferences I have attended so far.”
– Knarik Poghosyan, TU-Dortmund

In addition, the program featured two highly interactive 1.5-hour workshops. The first one, structured as a round table with two panelists – Elisa Giuliani and Francesco Rentocchini – tackled the intricacies of the publishing process, and provided a safe space for students to ask what they’ve always wanted to know: what makes a good manuscript; what issues are important to editors; how to navigate the uncertainty, ethical questions, and more. In the second workshop, Elisabetta Marinelli, a Principal Consultant from Technopolis Group, started off assessing the expectations of the students in the room in real time before debunking some of the most common misconceptions about working in academia, policy-making or the intersection between the two.

The rigorous discussions indoors were accompanied by informal socializing during the coffee breaks on INGENIO´s (mostly) sunny terrace. The Gala Dinner, hosted in a traditional Valencian restaurant, also offered ample opportunities for networking between PhD students, senior researchers and external guest speakers. All in all, this year’s edition of the PhDays continued a strong tradition of successful and widely popular Eu-SPRI Early Career Conferences at INGENIO.

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.

You can access all keynote presentations and other conference material via this link.

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.