Friday, 25 November 2011


Rob Byrne, convenor of the new STEPS Centre energy and climate change domain, together with Jose Opazo, a doctoral researcher from the Sussex Energy Group, will be at the latest round of global climate talks, COP17 in Durban, to discuss pathways to sustainable energy in developing countries.

Rob will speak at a side event on Wednesday December 7 co-organised with the Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN). Based on work by the Sussex Energy Group, STEPS Centre and ECN, the event will provide an opportunity to discuss pathways to sustainable energy in developing countries.

Focussing on policy initiatives such as the UNFCCC Technology Mechanism, Rob will present ideas developed in the new STEPS working paper on Energy Pathways for how frameworks like the Technology Mechanism could be designed to better facilitate pro-poor low carbon development. The event is being held on December 7th from 16:45 to 18:15 in the Hex River room

Rob and Jose will also be helping run a stand in collaboration with the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research which will be open during week two of the COP.

Read the new STEPS Working Paper Energy Pathways in Low-Carbon Development: From Technology Transfer to Socio-Technical Transformation by Rob Byrne, Adrian Smith, Jim Watson and David Ockwell
Read a short briefing briefing about the paper
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Thursday, 24 November 2011


An event at the STEPS Centre

We're delighted to announce that we'll be holding a two-week Summer School on Pathways to Sustainability next May.

An international group of leading researchers will run interactive sessions drawing on their work into the interactions of social, technological and environmental systems. The Summer School is aimed at a selected group of doctoral and postdoctoral researchers (or those with equivalent experience) who are working in fields around development studies, science and technology studies, innovation and policy studies, and across agricultural, health, water or energy issues.

Topics will include
- the politics of sustainability
- complexity in dynamic interacting systems
- interdisciplinarity in social and natural science
- knowledge and power
- understanding risk, uncertainty and ignorance
- livelihoods, institutions and development

The Summer School will take place at Sussex University during the Brighton Festival – a famously energetic and eclectic celebration of culture and innovative arts running from 5 - 27 May – with plenty of opportunities for students to engage.

>> Summer School flyer (pdf)
>> Summer School webpage

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Friday, 18 November 2011

Globelics '11: Lessons from India's experience of innovation politics shared at Globelics

Report on STEPS UK-India collaborations at the 9th Globelics Conference, 17th November 2011(supported by UKIERI), by Adrian Ely

Perspectives from India were amongst those shared in an international panel on ‘Innovation for Social Inclusion and Sustainable Development’ at the 9th Globelics Conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on 17th November 2011. The paper that fed into our session was contributed by Dinesh Abrol and provided both important historical context as well as future challenges to no less that 26 other presentations at the conference that drew on evidence and insights from the country.

The session followed on from discussions that had taken place in Delhi in June alongside the launch of Indialics and the new journal ‘Innovation for Development’, edited by K J Joseph. In Buenos Aires, Adrian Ely presented on behalf of Dinesh Abrol, who was unable to attend due to illness, but had sent through a presentation introducing India’s innovation politics from the time of independence in 1947.

Dinesh’s first point was that the freedom movement (leading to independence) ensured peoples’ participation in agenda setting, funding, organising, capacity building and monitoring in respect of the creation of new social carriers of innovation. Through processes like the 1949 Radhakrishnan Commission (India’s first commission on higher education), policy discussions like these required the Nehruvians, Gandhians and Leftists to state in one voice the formation of rural and urban universities, and defined the university designs in terms of not only how to integrate the missions of teaching, research and extension (integrated scholarship) but also demanded that they create the resources needed for learning, competence building and innovation.

In the end, a different model to that prescribed in the Radhakrishnan Commission - that of Pant Nagar University (which was created with the help of Indo-US collaboration) was followed. This came alongside a closure of the previously open earlier debates during the post-sixties, marginalising the upgrading efforts of traditional systems (the peasant-artisan economy) and focussing on large scale industries / atomic energy / chemical complexes to feed industrializing agriculture. Closure also occurred because the nation state did not wish to carry out land reforms; the technology system associated with the green revolution, which the state subsidized heavily to achieve higher agricultural productivity and production, served to stabilize the position of rural gentry with big business. By the 1980s, the stage was set for a period of passive imitation of the innovation directions in various parts of the developed world.
However some experiments fostering novel, home-grown innovation directions survived. In the second half of eighties the Peoples' science movements tried using a systemic approach, e.g. through national missions (leather, agro processing etc). Their results have been promising and some of these technology systems are now supported by the Department of Science and Technology. However, Dinesh also stressed that the other major weakness now impacting on progress is the loss of counter hegemonic status of these ideas, which he refers to as the problem of “weak subjective factor”.
Adrian concluded by reading out Dinesh’s final slide, which asked the question “What is to be done?”
  •  Experimental spaces are possible to be created even now; the examples of open source, open access are there before us. We need appropriate social carriers of innovation; We need to explore the possibilities of building on the earlier experiments through a freedom movement-like effort with lessons learnt about how to provide ecologically and socially just solutions in a sustainable way.    
  • Through the change in the political practice of innovation, the subjective factor must be strengthened (theory, policy and practice must dance together); new types of bridging organizations are required; viable network formation requires centering on the development of appropriate practice in food, health, IT and energy technologies. Following agro-ecological approaches is key in agriculture; break the ecological and social connections of pre-capitalist formations with the processes of capitalist development; mobilize the petty producers in a way that will allow them to see their interests with the workers and establish worker peasant unity in production.
  • Finally, international trading and investment arrangements are trying to foster agribusiness / global pharma business/ corporate biotech. We can resist only through the implementation of alternate political theory, policy and practice. Creating international solidarity around sector based efforts while strengthening umbrella efforts is the way forward.
The lessons highlighted above serve as an important basis for the Indian component of a new project within the STEPS Centre’s second phase that looks at and compares alternative innovation processes from Latin America and India. The session at Globelics, which was co-organised by the Argentinean partners on the same project, provided an important opportunity for innovation processes in the two regions (and perspectives from the UK) to be compared.
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Thursday, 17 November 2011


A new STEPS Centre paper, by Elisa Arond, Iokiñe Rodríguez, Valeria Arza, Francisco Herrera and Myriam Sánchez, investigates the challenges of linking science, technology and innovation to social needs, in the context of Latin America.

Innovation, Sustainability, Development and Social Inclusion: Lessons from Latin America is one of a series of working papers relating regional experiences to ideas proposed by the STEPS Centre's New Manifesto project, following on round table discussions held in Venezuela, Argentina, and Colombia in 2010.
The paper briefly describes the heterogeneous context and history of the Latin American region with specific attention to STI policies and institutions, as well as the particular challenge of effectively linking STI to social needs.

It highlights the important historic contribution of the Latin American School on Science, Technology and Development, and the relevance and synergies of ideas presented by these and contemporary Latin American researchers in relation to the New Manifesto’s ‘3Ds’.

The paper documents some examples – from public, private and civil society spheres – of current Latin American initiatives that illustrate regional efforts to develop, in different ways, a 3D innovation agenda, as well as constructing and putting into practice the different New Manifesto ‘Areas for Action’.

It also questions the relative weight of these efforts compared to conventional priorities of competitiveness and growth, and highlights some of the obstacles to realising 3D aims. In particular, it underscores persistent social and economic inequalities, issues of institutional and political resistance to change, and the role of power relations (at multiple levels) in determining directions of science, technology, and innovation, and STI policy, as topics worth exploring further in the future.
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By Adrian Smith, STEPS Centre and SPRU

During the session Innovation for Social Inclusion and Sustainable Development, we heard a rich set of perspectives from different regions around the world. I was particularly struck by the way the challenges of social inclusion and sustainable development both ask searching questions about what we know about innovation and how policy supports it. This is the point I wanted to develop in my remarks to the session participants, by arguing that concerns about inclusion means our economics of innovation has to be complemented even more by work on the politics of innovation. In combination, both can help recast innovation to the purposes of sustainable development and social inclusion. (Photo: Adrian Smith)

Sustainable development has both environmental integrity and social justice dimensions. The World Commission on Environment and Development famously defined sustainable development as ‘development that meets the needs of the present generation without jeopardising the needs of future generations’.

In the following sentence they elaborate two key concepts, which I quote: “The concept of ‘needs’, in particular the essential needs of the world’s poor, to which overriding priority should be given; the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment’s ability to meet present and future needs.” I’ll come back to the idea of limits . The relevant point here is that sustainable development has at its core two principles of social justice: one regarding redistribution towards the overriding priorities of the poor; and the other towards future generations and ensuring their options are kept open.

Social inclusion involves affirmative action to reduce exclusion from society. This means giving marginalised groups equal access to the rights, opportunities and resources enjoyed by others in society. Without these capabilities the excluded cannot participate fully in social, economic, political and cultural life. Again, redistribution is important, but so too are principles of procedural justice and cognitive: the ability to be recognised, heard and to participate in social development, and to have ones world view and knowledge of the world respected.

Understood in this way, then the question about ex ante identification of inclusive and sustainable innovation is a question of social justice. It suggests innovation trajectories will no longer be the result of science push and market pull, if they ever were, but that innovation systems need to be opened more explicitly to politics and activism.

Note in passing that in addressing questions of innovation for inclusion, we must not overlook how we might stop and prevent innovation that exacerbates social exclusion and contributes to unsustainable development. Nor should we ignore how unsustainable innovations can crowd out and hinder more progressive innovations. Regulating excluding, unsustainable innovation is just as important, but this other side of the coin is left for another discussion.

The vast majority of what we know about innovation has been attained through the study of rent-seeking firms operating in market settings. As researchers, we have followed how firms develop new technologies, products, processes, services and organisational forms. We have analysed their relations with scientific and knowledge institutions. And we have tried to evaluate how different policies and business strategies help and hinder these kinds of innovation process.

Consulted by practitioners, innovation scholars have even advised how to do this kind of innovation better. Various metrics have been developed to help us keep track of the performance of innovation systems: aggregate research funding levels, numbers of scientists and engineers, publications, patents, sales, etc. The ultimate driver of innovation policy is profit and GDP growth – particular economic indicators that set important contexts for innovation.

How much of this knowledge about innovation for market growth is appropriate to innovation for inclusive, sustainable development? Undoubtedly, the economics of innovation has contributed to the rise and spread of industries, including modern agriculture, around the world, and all the benefits that brings. But persistent concerns about livelihoods, job creation, inequalities, and dangerous environmental degradation suggest not all is well. If social justice appears anywhere in this mainstream innovation work, then it is largely implicit, and limited to questions of distribution and redistribution of innovation benefits, e.g. jobs and material wealth. Critical studies point out how issues of intergenerational, procedural, and cognitive justice are largely absent.

We heard in this session how innovation for inclusive, sustainable development has to attend to questions of direction, distribution and diversity: the 3-D agenda. It is an agenda that is addressing situations where effective market demand is usually weak, innovation goals and social demands are contested, relevant knowledge is plural and includes informal forms, and where civil society is often the source of change and, arguably, innovation (with states and markets catching-up later).

In my view, it would be foolish to rush into these situations with economic perspectives on innovation developed in completely different settings. Rather, we need to analyse what 3-D innovation systems might look like around the world. And, even more importantly, we need to learn how to transform existing systems and build innovation systems for more inclusive and sustainable forms development.

Researchers like those in the Sustainability Transitions Research Network are finding that any focus on transformation means bringing the different contexts of innovation into the centre of analysis and considering how those structuring contexts need to be changed too.

We have seen how the 3-D agenda has Areas for Action in agenda setting, funding, capacity-building, organising, and monitoring, evaluation and accountability. What is interesting is how these recommendations seek social inclusion and sustainability in the innovation processes themselves. It seems it is unlikely that any old innovation will generate inclusive, sustainable outcomes. Social inclusion and sustainable development are also about procedural justice, which means innovation itself has to become inclusive and sustainable.

So, how might innovation for social inclusion and sustainable development actually operate? Here, I think the economics of innovation might benefit from a dialogue with political science. All forms of innovation are political in some form or other, but when we start working towards 3-D innovations then the politics becomes much more apparent. Questions like whose innovation; what for; towards which goals; who gains and loses; on what basis can this innovation be justified; and so on, are very political.

I think political science can help with the principles and practice of social justice. There is a rich literature on distributive justice, procedural justice, and cognitive justice that we can draw upon when puzzling over forms of inclusive and sustainable innovation.

But there are other Areas for Action where political science might help. Questions of accountability and authority in innovation can be informed by studies of accountability systems and unaccountable behaviours in political science. Work on governance networks and relations between different political coalitions beyond conventional government and party political systems suggest lines of accountability and authority become much less clear-cut, in similarly complex ways to those implied by the 3-D agenda. Here, work on different theories of democracy, whether representative, participatory, deliberative or radical can help us map the terrain for public participation in inclusive and sustainable innovation.

There is also a fantastic wealth of lessons from work on social movements that could inform 3-D concerns for engaging civil society within innovation systems. Whilst the study of social movements is often in relation to their sociological consequences and demands upon political systems, I have found in my own research that some themes are pertinent to the roles played by civil society in innovation systems too.

Finally, political science is the discipline where power is centre stage – indeed it is often seen as constituting the stage. The areas for action in 3-D innovation challenge many vested interests, established institutions, and powerful agendas. As such, power needs to become a greater and more explicit part of our analyses. The different forms of power theorised in political science can help us grapple with the complexities of power relations.

Now, I am aware that this suggestion could appear to contradict my point about the current economics of innovation. Having said earlier that we need to take care over how appropriate our current theories and policies for innovation are for the 3-D agenda, I then suggest bringing in perspectives from areas of political science that have had nothing to do with innovation at all! But this would be to misconstrue my argument. Just as with the economics of innovation, we need to adapt insights from political science carefully to the new forms, purposes and contexts of inclusive, sustainable innovation. The bodies of knowledge of potential help to a 3-D agenda were developed through the study of governmental systems and political systems; not innovation systems. So there is a need for very precise contextualisation, translation across different intellectual histories, and retaining throughout a clear view of purposes.

I do not think any of our disciplines has complete answers for the profound challenges of innovation for social inclusion and sustainable development. Each provides helpful clues and areas for future work. But it is work that must be done in a problem-focused interdisciplinary way.

Furthermore, it should arise through trans-disciplinary engagement with practitioners and citizens in the wider social world. In many respects, the field of innovation studies has a good track record on interdisciplinarity, and so my argument here is pushing against an open door. But given the mixed and uneven successes of many innovations, our thinking and practice on innovation has to continue to develop and challenge. Perhaps we need a reinvigorated effort at redirecting our interdisciplinarity to address the politics of 3-D innovation?

None of this was news to people here at this Globelics event. It is quite apt that this session takes place in Argentina. Forty years ago the Fundación Bariloche produced its report Catastrophe or New Society in response to the Limits to Growth report. In contrast to the Club of Rome’s extrapolation of consumption and population trends in existing, industrial societies, the Bariloche team tried to model a more participatory and egalitarian society, and by putting developing countries centre-stage. They used their model to explore the biophysical viability of such societies. Unlike the Club of Rome emphasis on bio-physical limits, and unlike the WCED’s view on limits as organisational and technological, the Bariloche team recognised that the real limits initially are socio-political. What was needed was a political analysis of the power and ideology behind different development pathways, and a focus on how social justice could be brought into development much more centrally.

Another interesting feature to the Bariloche report was that it was funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) of Canada. IDRC are about to launch a new funding programme for research into innovation for inclusive development, and are organising a workshop with GRIDD right after this conference, here in Buenos Aires. As people embark on a new round of research, I think it is interesting to learn from attempts in the past and elsewhere. Whilst the contexts are very different, careful interpretation can nevertheless generate some very instructive lessons for us now. This is precisely what Hernán Thomas at UNQ and Dinesh Abrol at NISTADS are doing with the STEPS Centre, with a new project looking at grassroots innovation movements in historical and comparative perspective.

Clearly, there is plenty of exciting and important work that has been done and is being done. Strands that help us address the politics of innovation for inclusion will be helpful for our work the future too.
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As the STEPS Centre prepares for it's session at the Globelics conference in Buenos Aires today, member Adrian Smith has created a Wordle based on the contents of his presentation for the Innovation for Social Inclusion and Sustainable Development session. Click on the graphic to have a closer look. Read more


By Adrian Ely, STEPS Centre member

Innovation for inclusive development was a resounding theme in the introductory session of the 9th Globelics Conference in Buenos Aires on 15th November. Ministers, the Governor of the Province of Buenos Aires and the academic presenters celebrated Argentina’s focus on innovation, but highlighted the main challenge to the conference – developing innovation policies that generate improved livelihoods for the bulk of the population, rather than those that leave some (in some cases the majority) behind. (Photo: Buenos Aires).
Innovation scholars from Europe and the USA gave their perspectives on the challenges for the participants in Buenos Aires. Bengt-Åke Lundvall introduced Globelics and its key aim – to strengthen research capacity in innovation studies and policy. From 450 full papers submitted, the organisers had selected 240 for presentation over the coming three days.

Luc Soete highlighted the developments since Globelics was established and described a world which could hardly have been imagined one decade ago. He highlighted the increased interactions between the local level (‘localics’) - where building human capital is at the basis of learning and innovation systems - with the global level, where the ‘Washington Consensus’ was giving way to a consensus aligned with the approaches favoured by the ‘G5 group of emerging economies’.

Richard Nelson reflected on Schumpeter’s earlier work and the implications of ‘creative destruction’ for different sections of society. Highlighting the fundamental need for strong education systems and the important role of public sector expenditures (as well as the activities of business firms) in innovation systems, he also explained that countries showed a variety of patterns of innovation-based development.

Some countries (e.g. Japan, Korea and Taiwan) have succeeded in lifting the bulk of their populations whilst others (like Brazil and China) have displayed technological ‘catching up’ in a small section of the population, whilst a significant fraction of the population has been left behind. He posed this as a specific challenge to Argentina.
From the talks of the policy makers present, this already seems to be a key focus of the Argentinean government as Cristina Fernández de Kirchner enters her second term. Establishing the new Ministry of Science, Technology and Productive Innovation and implementing talent programmes that have led to the repatriation of more than 800 scientists who had left the country because of poor opportunities are just two recent policy actions, and targets such as 1 graduate (7 years training) for every 4000 inhabitants illustrate the ambition of the administration.

At the same time, Argentina’s vision to diversify the economy will require the participation of different actors, for example through new linkages between universities and the private sector. Through new policy approaches, science, technology and innovation can thus contribute not only to a system based on production rather than financial speculation, but also to development opportunities that are more widely distributed through the economy.

With this challenge, the conference participants start their discussions, drawing on evidence and analyses from across the world. Among these is a panel session convened by the STEPS Centre and partners from Buenos Aires. Dedicated to ‘Innovation for Social Inclusion and Sustainable Development’, the session is due to respond directly to the challenge set by the introductory speakers.
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A new book has just been published on the Kenyan Millennium Villages by Awuor Ponge, entitled Indigenous Knowledge and Sustainable Crop Production: A Study of the Millennium Village Project in Bar-Sauri in Nyanza Province, Kenya.

Ponge, an Assistant Research Fellow and M&E Officer at the Institute of Policy Analysis and Research - Kenya, is also a Visiting Lecturer at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology. He has researched on various issues on participatory and sustainable development.
His current interest is bridging research and policy and impact assessment of research on policy and legislation. Ponge spent some time here at the Insititute of Development Studies in the UK a couple of years ago and made many friends.

His book is published by gGermany's Lambert Academic Publishing and can also be ordered on Amazon.
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Friday, 4 November 2011


By Julia Day, STEPS Centre communications manager

Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates was asked by French President Nicolas Sarkozy to investigate finance for development and to report back to the G20 in Cannes this week. The key message of Gates' Innovation with Impact report, in a nutshell, appears to be: A levy on share and bond trading would help rich nations meet their aid pledges to the poor to the tune of $48bn (£30bn) a year.

With that kind of potential impact, what's not to love? The exploration of new ways to meet old finanical aid targets in this increasingly unstable economic climate are welcome, and the so-called Robin Hood Tax (sometimes called Tobin tax) is gaining support.

Gates told the G20 leaders that rather than being wholly used to shore up faltering First World economies, it was "critical" that a fraction of any agreed 
Financial Transaction Tax (FTT) should go towards helping the developing world. An FTT is gaining support - this week the Archbishop of Canterbury threw his weight behind the idea.

However, to make an FTT or other financial measure work, and work effectively, there are a whole host of non-financial issues to take in to account. The funding of science, technology and innovation – whether from public, private or philanthropic sources – needs to be geared much more strongly to the challenges of poverty alleviation, social justice and environmental sustainability.

The most blatently obvious of these issues being the need to include the poorest countries in discussion from the outset. The needs and demands of poorer and marginalised women and men as potential users of technologies, as well as the outcomes of innovation, must be addressed in funding allocations.
And becasue the potential recipients of the Robin Hood tax each have different institutional architectures for the setting of innovation priorities at national and international levels, an adaptable plan is needed. It has been said many times before, but it is always worth repeating: one-size-fits -all solutions just do not work.

Any mechanism put in place would need to enable diverse interests and new voices to be involved in inclusive debate, including those of poorer and marginalised people. In some countries and settings this will involve building on existing institutional arrangements; in others it will require establishing new fora.

But if we are to support innovation for development in the poorest countries, we must build on local innovation capabilities and include the end-users in the decision-making process. The STEPS Centre's Innovation, Sustainability, Development: A New Manifesto contains many more action points on delivering an equitable future for all.
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