The Main Themes of the Conference

Theme 1: Addressing the role of research and innovation in times of crises

Science and innovation policies in crisis situations are of great current interest due to the corona situation. Severe health, economic and other effects of the epidemic are likely to influence science and innovation activities in deep ways. Is there a joint undertaking for science and innovation beyond covering instrumental needs like vaccines? With more work-from-home and travel limitations, what happens to big science and international projects? Does digitalization of work lead to more open or more vulnerable innovation practices, and how can policymakers best support innovators in this situation? What have we learned from earlier crises and their science and innovation policies? Can something be done to develop temporal issues of science and innovation policies like a “sense of urgency” and a “window of opportunity”?

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Theme 2: Impact, excellence and beyond: Reframing the science-society relationship

A major framing of contemporary science policy is that research activities should lead to societal impacts – and impacts should be outlined ex ante and evaluated ex post. But how do we understand the notion of impact; what is the relationship between direct and indirect forms of impact; and whether and how can they be measured? Efforts to strengthen and demonstrate impact may also require discussions about the relationship between impact and innovation. Is innovation an impact or should we also study impacts of innovation? To what extent do impacts from research emerge in the form of innovations and innovation processes? What are the opportunities and limitations in planning something that by definition is new, unpredictable and long-lasting? Seen from the societal side, what are the research practices that are most important?

Furthermore, there is a persistent emphasis on excellence in research, combined with an assumption of a positive correlation between scientific and societal impact and demands for advice on how to best allocate limited public science budgets. How can our scholarly community better address these demands, as well as providing (self)reflection on the processes which create them? What is the role of policy in identifying and fostering excellence and world-leading groups, and what is the impact of these policies? More specifically, what is the impact of research evaluation regimes/performance-based funding on the content, practices and quality of science? Are policies for research excellence and societal impact in conflict? If so, in which ways? Can we develop better frames for communicating with policymakers on these matters?

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Theme 3: Technology push or societal change – the widening scope of STI policies in sustainability transitions

How can science and innovation enable transformations towards more sustainable economies and societies? Research and innovation policies are among the most frequently used tools to support transformation processes, related to a basic idea about the need to develop radical new technologies to deal with grand challenges, such as the energy transition. However, recently research and innovation policies have begun to address that sustainability transitions require more than new technologies. In addition, there is also a need to address changes in consumption patterns, behaviours and preferences, and how societal functions are carried out. This shift towards a more encompassing view of sustainability transitions creates a challenge for research and innovation policy approaches. This change actualizes debate about the scope of innovation policy for grand challenges and even more, a critical reflection on the relationship between science and innovation and also the role they play in societal transformation.

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