Stefan Kuhlmann (University of Twente, Netherlands)
Jakob Edler (Manchester Institute of Innovation Research, University of Manchester, UK)
Ralf Lindner (Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research, Germany)
Gonzalo Ordonez (University of Twente, Netherlands)
Sally Randles (Manchester Metropolitan University, UK)
Bart Walhout (University of Twente, Netherlands)
Transformative Research and Innovation Policy – Towards a Meta-governance Frame
ABSTRACT. The paper will develop a meta-governance framework facilitating transformative policy-making, with a particular focus on the meso-level of research and innovation systems (RIS). In our concept “governance” includes all related actors, their resources, interests and power, fora for debate and arenas for negotiation between actors, rules of the game, and policy instruments applied helping to achieve legitimate agreements (Kuhlmann 2001; Benz 2006). “Meta-governance” is about “organising the conditions of governance” (Jessop 2002, 242). Why is this perspective relevant? The contexts and conditions for RIS are changing, placing more, new and multiple kinds of pressures, demands and requirements on science, technology and innovation (STI). These demands can be understood as increased legitimacy pressures on STI actors and RIS (e.g. Schot & Steinmueller 2016; Mulgan 2017). Since about 15 years STI policies have become geared towards addressing objectives reaching beyond an immediate economic focus on growth and competitiveness (Lindner et al. 2016). This "normative turn" is expressed in the strategic reorientation of national and supranational STI policies to address the “Grand Societal Challenges” such as health, demographic change, wellbeing and sustainability (Foray et al. 2012; Kallerud et al. 2013; Kuhlmann & Rip 2014). Well known examples for this ongoing paradigm shift are the European Union's Europe 2020 strategy, the US Strategy for American Innovation or Germany's Hightech Strategy. This is complemented and propelled forward by the recent discourse on “responsibility” in research and innovation. Against this background the paper will address the following questions: • What is needed to establish, ensure or regain legitimacy for STI policy? Can legitimacy be constructed pro-actively (c.f. Suchman 1995)? How and towards which ends do RIS and their meta-governance have to be transformed to achieve this? • Which meta-governance frame (at the meso-level) can help to address the transformations called for, and eventually contribute to establishing legitimacy of STI? The paper does not intend to deliver a “grand concept” to transform RIS, covering all levels and systems dimensions. Rather, the focus is on transformation of organisations and institutions at the meso-level (such as funding organisations; ministries; boards of universities and of companies; civil society organisations). This level is often forgotten, as analysis and prescription either target “the system”, policy or individuals, and if they target the meso-level, it is often very specificly tailored towards a certain category. However, our premise is that while there is a variety of different organisations in RIS, there are core structures and processes influencing responsiveness to external demands across all of them that need to be understood and addressed. Successful changes at the meso-level have a potential to contribute, in a legitimate way, to system-wide transformations. A recent prominent attempt to (re-)establish legitimacy and provide normative orientation for STI policy and RIS is the above mentioned quest for “Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI)” (e.g. von Schomberg 2013). In essence, “RRI” aims at improving the alignment of the impacts of technology and innovation with societal demands and values as far as possible. The concept is inherently characterised by a high degree of normativity in order to provide necessary guidance as to what constitutes desired or “responsible” research and innovation (Randles et al. 2014; Lindner and Kuhlmann 2016). The prominent position of “RRI” in the European Union's research and innovation programme Horizon 2020 and the endorsement of the "Rome Declaration on RRI in Europe" by the European Council in 2014 indicate that “RRI” has been used as a legitimacy resource for policy, research funding and scientific communities. The quest for “RRI” can be interpreted as one of the current responses to the challenges raised by the broader changes and dynamics conditioning and structuring STI. The related “RRI discourse” is an attempt to question, revise and strategically re-stabilise the legitimacy of public investments in STI policies. But such claims to increase the “responsibility” and “responsiveness” in RIS should not be equalled with a meta-governance frame. Therefore, in contrast to attempts to define what “RRI” should mean in substance (e.g. Stilgoe et al. 2013), in our paper we apply a genuine governance perspective. The intended meta-governance framework facilitating transformative, responsive and legitimate policy-making in RIS will have to cope with two basic challenges: • “Responsibility” has always been subject to changing value choices (Arnaldi & Gorgoni 2017). Also the recent claim for “RRI” is an inherently normative concept. The concrete realization of these normative claims will be contested in the context of pluralistic societies. Instead of downplaying these tensions and potential conflicts, we acknowledge the need to identify conditions and viable mechanisms that facilitate the capacities and capabilities of relevant actors to engage in constructive and productive negotiations. • Any effective governance approach needs to take into account the manifold, multi-layered incumbent governance arrangements in RIS and STI policy, and draw on them constructively. These various, often well-established arrangements and mechanisms, as well as normative priorities of actors, represent what we consider as “RRI in the making” or the de facto governance (Rip 2010) of evolving “divisions of moral labour” (Rip 2017) between actors. Consequently the paper builds on a research approach aiming to learn from “RRI in the making”, understood as a historically unfolding process, co-evolving with understandings of what it means to be responsible in any particular context. Here we are interested in those practices in which the participating actors work towards legitimate normative objectives and outcomes. In order to identify “building blocks” for a meta-governance framework and given the heterogeneity and complexity of present research and innovation governance landscapes, a case study approach was chosen to study “RRI in the making”, aiming to generate deep insights into established arrangements, mechanisms and practices of governance across a range of different research and innovation situations and contexts. Consequently, an explorative rather than a representative approach was applied to select and conduct 26 very diverse empirical cases (Randles et al. 2016). A tailored model was developed to guide the empirical research (Walhout et al. 2016). The case study programme was be complemented by a continuous monitoring process of “RRI” trends and developments in 16 European countries (Mejlgaard & Griessler 2016). The empirical material was analysed in a 3-stage deductive-inductive research process, and we identified 13 transversal lessons for the governance of RRI, along procedural and substantive dimensions (Randles et al. 2016). Against this background we developed in an abductive manner the rationale and ambitions of a meta-governance framework (“Responsibility Navigator”, Kuhlmann et al. 2015). This orientating framework is meant to facilitate responsibility-related debates, strategic reflection and decision-making processes in meso-level RIS organisations. The framework builds on ten principles organised along the three dimensions of (1) Ensuring Quality of Interaction, (2) Positioning and Orchestration, and (3) Developing Supportive Environments. We claim a high degree of robustness of the suggested principles given a strong empirical foundation plus the fine-tuning and testing in an elaborated “co-construction process” with key meso-level stakeholders from RIS in Europe and beyond (Bryndum et al. 2016).
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