We are monitoring the developments of the COVID-19 pandemic closely. However, we are still planning and hoping that it will be possible to host a physical conference, but we are prepared to change to a digital conference format should the current situation continue. This means that there will be a conference in June as planned, either physical or digital. The final decision on the conference format will be made in early March.
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.
A similar situation can be seen in the current efforts to mitigate climate gas emissions and move the world towards a more sustainable mode of production and consumption. Although the scientific knowledge base on climate research has developed for years, it is largely disconnected from technological and social innovations.
It can be argued that these cases illustrate the difference between science and innovation very well. Science seeks to build a strong and useful knowledge base. Its reults will only rarely lead directly to innovations, even though the long-term societal impacts can be great. Innovation seeks to exploit opportunities, solve problems and meet various forms of needs and demands, and will only rearly require active engagement with research activites.
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.
Although, many different topics are useful for understanding and elaborating the science-innovation boundry, the conference will primarily address three important themes.
In addition, it is important that researchers discuss what their own knowledge and experience can indicate about the future of science and innovation policy. At least since Vannevar Bush's report Science the Endless Fronier, policy entails finding a good balance between undirected activities - basic, blue skies or fundemental research - and directed activities such as applied research, development and support for commercialization and entrepreneurship. While a pendulum of emphasis swings between these extremes, Eu-SPRI and associated communities provide a steady stream of concepts that in one way or another convey balance. "Transitions" and "missions" are two of the most popular ones at the moment, expressing how science and innovation contribute jointly to desirable outcomes. But at a conference that also marks the 10th anniversary of the Eu-SPRI network, it is necessary to take a step back and discuss what we can learn from the past and how our frameworks and findings find their way inot policies and practice. This is a key goal of the 2021 event in Oslo.