Eu-SPRI Annual Conference Oslo June 9-11 2021

Science and innovation – an uneasy relationship?

Rethinking the roles and relations of STI policies

A couple of decades ago, the concepts of science and innovation became steady partners, especially in policy. Countries, regions and the EU developed policies and support instruments for science and innovation – indicating that there is a close relationship between these two activities and therefore also policy areas. Although this is certainly sometimes the case, the Eu-SPRI 2021 conference invites participants to a more critical and reflexive discussion of this link. What are the problems of seeing science and innovation as two sides of the same coin? Is the merger of the two policy areas in some cases a barrier to solving societal challenges as much as it represents a solution? When is it helpful to look at science and innovation, and when do we need to keep them apart? Such questions are not just important for society, but also for developing the community interested in science and innovation policy studies.

The coronavirus crisis illustrates the topic well. In research, a large number of new projects have been started, sometimes with expedient application and review processes, and organizations like the European Research Council have allowed Principal investigators to change their projects to deal with the crisis. Funding agencies like the Research Council of Norway has supported scores of projects to deal with medical and societal aspects of Covid-19 and its policies. Globally many early studies have been controversial; observers have argued that premature results often have little value, and there seems to be no widespread consensus on the implications of the research carried out on the epidemic. Researchers have argued that the main importance of these activities is to prepare societies for the subsequent epidemics. Innovation, on the other hand, has emerged from the needs and necessities of the new situation. New digital working practices, social innovations and services and apps for communication, sharing and problem-solving have come out of organizations’ and individuals’ experimentation and needs, not out of science. Only in the attempts at making a vaccine against the coronavirus do we see a clear blending of science and innovation, although the race to find a vaccine might not correspond to contemporary ideals of open science and innovation.

The Eu-SPRI 2021 conference aims to discuss the boundries and linkages between these two sets of practices and how it can be usefully conceptualized to inform future and address current and future societal challanges. This will also allow the interdisciplinary community that studies science and innovation policies to join the conference to reflect upon their own history, trajectory and frameworks.  Visit the conference website for details