18. The role of social entrepreneurship in orienting innovation policies towards societal challenges

Convenor: Mario Calderini.

Session type: Full paper session.

In recent times, the increasing urge to address societal challenges, such as those related to health, environment, and food, has given to innovation policies a new role: to address proactively these challenges by systemically transforming societies and the environment (Schot & Steinmueller 2018, OECD 2015). This orientation of innovation policies asks for a deeper understanding of the link between technological and social innovation and for a research and policy agenda concerning how they might be intertwined (Coenen et al., 2015; Weber and Rohracher, 2012).

In this context, a favoured target for innovation policies oriented to societal challenges (among others Coenen et al., 2015; Kuhlmann and Rip, 2018) is represented by entrepreneurial forms that have social impact as a key driver of their action.

These social entrepreneurial organisations (Defourny and Nyssens, 2006), that can be considered part of a broader “impact entrepreneurship” movement (Markman et al., 2019), can be regarded as vehicles to tackle grand social and environmental challenges through economically sustainable solutions. A key outcome for problem oriented innovation policies is represented by the technological development of social entrepreneurship (Ghazinoory et al., 2020), whose inherent capacity of mixing business and social impact generation might be enhanced and scaled through technological innovation (Scilitoe et al., 2018).

Thus, in this track, we aim at investigating the potential role of social entrepreneurship to promote innovation by providing better solutions to social problems and the potential of innovation policies to foster and enhance the technological transformation of these organisations. Moreover, we focus on how these organisations may mitigate the unintended effects and maximize the positive impact of Science, Technology and Innovation Policies on society and individuals.

This track particularly encourages submissions regarding (but not limited to) the following areas:

  • Technology and knowledge transfer to social impact-oriented enterprises;
  • Entrepreneurial models for new socio-technical systems;
  • Science Technology and Innovation policies for impact-oriented entrepreneurship;
  • The managerial implication of the use of technologies to solving social issues;
  • Technology and social innovation ecosystems, clusters, networks;
  • Partnerships between academia, social entrepreneurship, CSOs (novel third mission strategies);
  • Strategies and policies to enhance impact-oriented technological research and solutions;
  • Inclusive Innovation Policies;
  • Social and functional procurement;
  • Approaches and policy instruments to finance social-tech entrepreneurship.



Coenen, L., Hansen, T., & Rekers, J. V. (2015). Innovation policy for grand challenges. An economic geography perspective. Geography Compass, 9(9), 483-496.

Defourny, J., & Nyssens, M. (2006). Defining social enterprise. Social enterprise: At the crossroads of market, public policies and civil society, 7, 3-27.

Ghazinoory, S., Nasri, S., Ameri, F., Montazer, G. A., & Shayan, A. (2020). Why do we need ‘Problem-oriented Innovation System (PIS)’for solving macro-level societal problems?. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 150, 119749.

Kuhlmann, S., & Rip, A. (2018). Next-generation innovation policy and grand challenges. Science and public policy, 45(4), 448-454.

Markman, G. D., Waldron, T. L., Gianiodis, P. T., & Espina, M. I. (2019). E Pluribus Unum: Impact Entrepreneurship as a Solution to Grand Challenges. Academy of Management Perspectives, 33(4), 371-382.

OECD (2015). The innovation imperative: Contributing to productivity, growth and well-being. OECD – Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.Publishing.

Schot, J., & Steinmueller, W. E. (2018). Three frames for innovation policy: R&D, systems of innovation and transformative change. Research Policy, 47(9), 1554-156

Scillitoe, J. L., Poonamallee, L., & Joy, S. (2018). Balancing market versus social strategic orientations in sociotech ventures as part of the technology innovation adoption process–examples from the global healthcare sector. Journal of Social Entrepreneurship, 9(3), 257-287.