The focus of the Evolving Innovation Environments Research Program is on inclusion and expansion of innovation activities and social preconditions and consequences related to these processes.
Evolving Innovation Environments Research Program (EVIEN) has as one of its key points of departure that innovation activities tend to concentrate on a number of places around the world. EVIEN is interested why this is the case and why certain nations, regions and cities continue to be innovative while some others not, and why so many places are not that innovative at all. Along increasing globalization of innovation activities, many of these innovative places tend to generate connections between each other through, for example, mobility of people and ideas, research and development (R&D) collaborations, activities of large multinational corporations or trans-national entrepreneurs, international programs and by the use of information and telecommunication technologies.
Another important phenomenon of interest for EVIEN Research Program is inclusiveness in relation to innovation activities. There are manifold new kind of groups of participants engaged in innovation activities through new institutional arrangements. These formerly excluded groups may consist of women or minor ethnic groups in the Global South or immigrants, unemployed, students or ageing people in the Global North, for instance. The key to understand this emerging phenomenon is inclusiveness; what works in favor of it and what works against it.
Increasing trans-nationalization and expansion of innovation activities is not yet much studied by many of its aspects. Our interest in the EVIEN Research Program goes beyond any single organizations, to those groups of actors, flows of ideas and knowledge, mobility of people, and institutions guiding interactions between two or more sites of innovative activities (nations, regions or cities) that are interconnected to come up with new ideas, technologies or products.
To understand and study this phenomenon, we deploy several theoretical approaches and concepts among which a very important one is the innovation system approach and especially its spatial variants, the National Innovation System or the Regional Innovation System approach (e.g. Freeman 1987, 2008, and Freeman &Soete 1997; Nelson et al. 1993; Lundvall 1992, Archibugi & Lundvall 2001; Edquist 1997 and 2011; Fagerberg et al. 2004; Niosi et al. 1993; Cooke et al. 1998, 2005; Asheim et al. 2011). This approach stresses that innovation is a social phenomenon and is dependent on its societal context and emerge typically in interaction between many actors and under an influence of many institutional factors (regulations, norms and values, organizational networks and so forth). These actors and factors may also inhibit a birth, diffusion, adoption or use of any innovation. The innovation system approach also emphasizes, due to some of its roots in evolutionary economics, a significance of historical and cumulative development paths.
The innovation system approach has its indisputable merits: it helps to understand and explain, among other things, why certain countries have remained economically underdeveloped. It has also given much advice on how to build regional strategies and practices to facilitate knowledge-based economic growth. Due to these merits, the innovation system approach has enjoyed an important role as a guiding framework among numerous policy-making bodies including the World Bank, the OECD, the EU and many national and regional governments, in addition to an international community of scholars.
However, from the early years of the approach (Niosi & Bellon 1994), it has been time and time again asked whether such spatially constrained frameworks remain feasible in the globalizing world. So far, there has been a lack of innovation system level analyses and theorization of internationalization (Oinas & Malecki 2002, Carlsson 2006), with an exception concerning the role of large multi-national or trans-national companies (MNCs or TNCs) and their R&D structures as vehicles of knowledge transfer between different national innovation systems. Furthermore, breadth and depth of research knowledge on how an innovation system supports transition processes where global value chains evolve is rather moderate, as well as the role of regional innovation policies when building conditions to support indigenous small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) in these transition processes (Chaminade & Vang 2008).
Another point of interest is an emergence of new type of social and organizational forms facilitating innovations and inclusion. Briefly we may here refer to, for example, different type of open innovation platforms and heterogeneous innovation communities. In innovation communities, participants share some common goals, they feel certain belonging to a community, and they share knowledge and other resources reciprocally and often without any financial transaction involved. Open innovation platforms typically involve many actors to innovation processes and in some cases, there may be various new types of participants in these processes such as students, unemployed, various user groups and so forth. These platforms and communities may be fairly global and virtual by their characteristics (e.g. open source software development) or they may be rooted to a certain locality (e.g. Demola open innovation environments in Finland and beyond, or HYSTA, the Chinese entrepreneurs’ association in Silicon Valley, USA).
Of interest is whether these new forms of innovation platforms indicate a bigger transformation in innovation activities towards a more democratized and widely distributed, participatory model of ‘innovation citizenship’ or whether they remain in margins of a bulk of all innovation activities characterized by more traditional models such as rather closed R&D laboratories, science parks and incubators.
This notion brings us to another research interest of the EVIEN Research Program that deals with those impacts on nations and regions that these above mentioned potential transformations have. Therefore, our interest is to a great extent on a system-wide impacts instead of, for example, impacts on a single organization.
We aim to contribute to this emerging research agenda through conceptual and methodological development, as well as through empirical research.
EVIEN Research Program is a combination of own independent research activities and several externally funded research projects (Tekes, the Academy of Finland, and other Finnish and foreign research financers). These projects are initiated by the Innovation Studies Group of TaSTI or by its partners and they contribute to the research goals of the EVIEN program. The research program is intended to last until 2018.
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Asheim, B. T., Boschma, R. & Cooke, P. N. (2011) Constructing regional advantage: platform policies based on related variety and differentiated knowledge bases, Regional Studies 45(7), pp. 893-904.
Carlsson, B. (2006) Internationalization of innovation systems: A survey of the literature, Research Policy 35, pp.56–67.
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