23. Knowledge co-creation to address grand societal challenges: new policy approaches

Convenors: José Guimón.

Session type: Round table.

Session Chair

José Guimón, Associate Professor of Economics, Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM); Member of the Executive Committee of Eu-SPRI Forum (jose.guimon@uam.es).



Caroline Paunov
Senior Economist at the OECD and Head of Secreteriat for the OECD Working Party on Innovation and Technology Policy (TIP).
Presentation of OECD-TIP Project on knowledge co-creation.


Sebastian Pfotenhauer
Co-Director, Munich Center for Technology in Society (MCTS); Associate Professor for Innovation Research, TU Munich; Coordinator of SCALINGS project.
Presentation of EU-Horizon2020 project SCALINGS (“Scaling up co-creation: Avenues and Limits for Integrating Society in Science and Innovation”).


Susana Borrás
Professor of Innovation, Copenhagen Business School; Member of the Executive Committee of Eu-SPRI Forum.
Insights on international co-creation partnerships to deliver innovative solutions for grand societal challenges.



Rather than just engaging in arms-length technology transfer transactions, the need to invest over the long run in building mechanisms for science-industry-society co-creation is increasingly recognized by policy-makers. This often involves long-term partnerships between various stakeholders (universities, firms, governments, civil society) who combine their knowledge and resources to innovate jointly. Co-creation initiatives allow building up critical mass around transformative initiatives, aligning technological capacity and social needs more efficiently. But such projects also face substantial challenges, including the difficulty of building a shared vision and aligning the interests of diverse stakeholders, the difficulty of managing large projects with many participants, the high degree of “situatedness” of co-creation in different contexts, and the potential conflicts around the ownership of data and intellectual property generated by the project.

Public policies can support co-creation by providing funding and support services, thus addressing market and systemic failures that hamper such collaborative ventures. Moreover, the mobilization of science, industry and civil society under a “system innovation” logic is increasingly taken by policy-makers as a key mechanism to trigger the kind of “transformative change” required to address strategic missions and grand societal challenges. Stimulating international co-creation schemes becomes critical to address pressing challenges that require global responses, such as climate change, but these alliances need to overcome additional barriers and governance challenges. Cross-border knowledge co-creation platforms are playing a major role in the fight against Covid-19, with international public-private partnerships such as the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) coordinating global efforts to develop and distribute viable vaccines.


This session is envisioned as a panel where speakers will first deliver a short presentation (5-10 min.), followed by a debate between them moderated by the Chair. First, two on-going international projects to study new trends and policy approaches to support co-creation will be presented by a representative of the OECD and by the coordinator of an EU-Horizon2020 project. Subsequently, Prof. Susana Borrás will provide insights based on her recent research on international co-creation partnerships to deliver innovative solutions for grand societal challenges.


Key questions to be addressed by panellists include the following:

  • What are the lessons learnt from recent policy programmes implemented across different countries to support co-creation?
  • What kind of challenges are emerging in large, international co-creation projects to address grand societal challenges?
  • How scalable is co-creation?
  • How to meaningfully engage civil society in co-creation projects?