Eu-SPRI 2021 – Early Career Research Conference (ECC)

Paris, France. October 21-23, 2021

Transformative Innovation Policy: Concepts, Methods and Policy Practices

Welcome to the event page of the 2021 Eu-SPRI ECC. This event is organized by the Université Gustave Eiffel (UGE), Laboratoire Interdisciplinaire Sciences, Innovations, Sociétés (LISIS) and the Austrian Institute of Technology (AIT), Center for Innovation Systems & Policy; in collaboration with University of Vienna, Department of Geography and Regional Research and the Urban Europe Research Alliance (UERA).

We are pleased to announce that the conference will take place in Paris, France, on 21-23 of October 2021. We invite PhD candidates, post-doctoral and early career researchers to share and discuss their scientific contributions (papers) to Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) policies for forward-looking transformations. The expected and encouraged fields of study are sociology, economics, political science, geography, public policy and innovation studies; other fields are also considered.

Submissions shall be uploaded on the EasyChair System no later than 1st of July 2021.

Updates and announcement on the conference program will be shared on this webpage. In case of any questions, please contact the local organizing team:

This webpage contains information on:

  1. Conference Theme and Streams
  2. Conference Structure and Formats
  3. Target Audience and Submission
  4. Registration Fees and Accomodation

1.     Conference Theme and Streams

This Early Career Conference addresses the guiding theme “Transformative Innovation Policy: Concepts, Methods and Policy Practices”. Starting point is the observation that STI policies have changed over the past decade in terms of the rationales and conceptual models through which change is understood to happen in economy and society, while recognising the need to address not only the magnitude but also the direction of change (stream 1). This overarching perspective on the evolution of STI policies can be further differential in terms of the types of innovations addressed (stream 2) and the spatial context in which these policies are embedded (stream 3). Cutting across these three perspectives, the range and the configurations of actors considered relevant to transformative STI policy diversify, and therefore also the institutional and other interfaces between them (stream 4). In order to support more ambitious transformative policy approaches, new forms of strategic intelligence are also needed to guide policy strategies, monitor their implementation and enable processes of collective learning (stream 5).

Stream 1: Pathways of STI policies: directionality and the roles of actors and intermediaries

In innovation studies, the (re-)emergence and reframing of STI policies can be analyzed according to the levels of ambition and the direction of change they pursue. Transformative STI policies aim to stimulate research and innovation that tackle societal challenges and to trigger change in a desirable direction (Uyarra et al., 2019; Borrás & Edler, 2020; Kuhlman & Rip, 2018; Robinson & Mazzucato, 2019; Schot & Steinmueller, 2018). The complex mechanisms through which the intended and non-intended effects of these policies arise and become generalized are reflected in the transformation pathways realised. These pathways are shaped by the concerted decisions of actors and stakeholders, based on their goals and resources, conditioned by their context, and influenced by a range of policies. Hence, the directionality of transformative change, the influence of policies on directionality, and the shaping of policies by actors and stakeholders will be the main focus of this stream. The following questions shall be addressed:

  • How can direction and directionality be identified and measured?
  • Who sets the direction and shapes the pathways?
  • What conditions the development of pathways?
  • What actors (co-)create the pathways?
  • What role(s) do intermediaries play?

Stream 2: Types of innovations addressed by transformative STI policies

The nature of the innovations which STI policies aim to put forward depends on certain technical cultures, which are in turn determined by the types of actors involved in these policies. Underlying these lie therefore certain ideologies of sociotechnical progress. Questioning the types of innovation carried out through STI policies, be they technical, organizational, social, high-tech or low-tech/frugal, entirely new or resurgent, digital-based or materially-based, etc. (Henderson and Clark 1991, Nowotny, et al. 2003, Leitner et al. 2016, van der Have and Rubalcaba 2016), helps make sense of a multiplicity of heterogeneous policy initiatives, but also questions fundamental ideological assumptions and agendas of STI policy stakeholders (e.g. the agenda of “smart cities”). STI policies have historically been framed and aimed at technological innovation to foster competitive economies (Schot & Steinmuller, 2018). Considering the renewed focus on normative missions and sustainability, it follows that this directionality will lead to more inclusive and diverse types of innovations. This leads to the following questions:

  • What types of innovations are aimed for in transformative STI policies? And for what reasons?
  • What is the role of social and organisational innovation in transformative change?
  • Who is included in innovations, and who is excluded?
  • How is the policy process adapted to cater for a variety of innovations?

Stream 3: Scales and the embedding of STI policies in geographical context

The question of scales helps examine how different geographies condition the success of transformative STI policy at one or multiple scales, and better observe how STI policy travels across boundaries of place (e.g., from one country to another) and scale (e.g., from region to municipality). The issue of scales opens up three different dimensions (Hansen and Coenen 2015; Raven et al. 2019). Firstly, there are different scales at which STI policies are implemented, from local, regional and national to supranational scales, which all have their respective specificities and interact with each other. Secondly, STI policies are designed and unravel within given geographic, socio-economic, cultural and political contexts, which condition the design, implementation and success (or failure) of STI policies. Thirdly, STI policies ”travel“, assuming that they are being replicated in different localities, although dealing with difficulties due to spatially bound differences that we observe in different localities. We expect contributions linked to all these dimensions, and how their understanding can help with the design and implementation of STI policies worldwide, when we ask ourselves:

  • How can we map and analyse transformative STI policies across scales?
  • How do different scales interact in transformative STI policies?
  • How do situated contexts embed transformative STI policies and therefore condition their design and success/failure?
  • How have transformative STI policies been replicated, or failed to be replicated, in different local contexts?

Stream 4: Science, society and policy interface

There is a vast body of literature that discusses the interaction between science, society and policy, and the (two-way) communication flows between them (e.g. Gibbons et al., 1994; Nowotny et al., 2001; Jasanoff, 2004). In this stream, we invite papers addressing the ‘science, society, policy-interface’ and the role of actors operating at these interfaces (e.g. engaged in policy embedding, knowledge brokerage, policy learning, or around co-production of knowledge). It would raise questions concerning the importance of interface relationships towards ‘forward-looking’ transformations;new or different forms of interactions; and processes of their establishment in how. Such questions could be:

  • How is scientific knowledge embedded in STI policy or policy change?
  • How do policy makers make use of scientific knowledge towards transformations, and vice versa?
  • How do scientists anticipate policy change towards transformations?
  • In the context of ‘forward-looking’ transformations, how can we conceptualise the relationships between science, policy and society?

Stream 5: Evaluation, assessment and impacts of STI policies

New evaluation and impact frameworks are needed to understand the contribution of various STI policies for transformations. Even though some promising frameworks have already been developed for sustainability policies, the nature and function of STI policies for transformations imply that specific characteristics and capabilities are necessary to embrace in order to induce system change and innovation (Daniels et al., 2020; Ghosh et al., 2020; Kattel et al., 2018; Kivimaa et al., 2017; Molas-Gallart et al., 2020), considering methods and practices for evaluating and assessing the impacts of such policies (Cuhls, 2003; Georghiou et al., 2008; Havas, Schartinger & Weber, 2010; Joly et al. 2015; Meissner et al. 2013). This calls for papers that address the construction of robust evaluation and assessment tools for STI policies, raising the following questions:

  • Which evaluation criteria and frameworks are emerging?
  • How, what and when to evaluate and assess?
  • How can evaluation of embedded policy experiments be applied for systemic transformations?
  • How can participatory evaluation support this process?
  • What assessment approaches are used to anticipate or predict policy impacts?

From the discussion of these and other angles, new frameworks (or advice) can be developed for the mapping of transformative STI policies, as well as selecting, combining, and re-inventing (existing) tools for policy evaluation, construction and learning.

2.    Conference Structure and Formats

The conference will offer a varied programme, including paper presentation sessions, keynote talks, a science-to-policy training, a conference award, and conference dinner.

Early career researchers can choose one of the two following options to present their work, and have the option of participating in a science-to-policy training”:

  • Full paper presentation

Participants are invited to send in full paper prior to the conference. Each paper presentation will be allocated 25 min of time, ~15 min presentation, and 10 min comments by two designated commentators (one conference participant/ one senior researcher) and open discussion. Each participant for a paper session will be asked to act as discussant during their session, and to provide comments, suggestions or questions to fellow presenters. Presenters are expected to provide a draft paper in advance to the conference organisors, to be distributed among participants. Commentators will also be assigned to papers before the conference.

  • Speed talk

During speed talk session, PhD researchers have the opportunity to briefly introduce new research ideas, data and analytical insights, and early stage work to provide a basis for collective discussion in small breakout groups with each of the authors. Availability of a full paper is not required for speed talks, but contributors are encouraged to use supporting material for their speed talks (e.g. poster, infographic, short video, etc.).

‘Science to policy’ training

A ‘science-to-policy’ training will be offered, and is aimed at developing early career researchers’ capacities to influence policy with their research. To achieve this, the policy workshop will consist of an online training session prior to the conference and a pitching session at the conference itself.

The training will be conducted online and will take place three weeks prior to the conference. The first aim of the online workshop is to attune early career researchers to the practicalities and daily realities of policy making and policy influence. To this end, the training session will include contextual information on the authorising environment and policy making in practice. Key questions guiding this training include: What is the best timing to influence policy? What avenues can be used to influence policy? How do policy makers think and what is important to them? The second aim of the online workshop is to improve early career researchers communication and argumentative skills for policy influence. Participants will receive training in presentation and communication techniques with policy makers as the main target group. Key questions for this part of the workshop are: How do you structure an argument most relevant to policy makers? How do you present research findings to policy makers?

Based on these new knowledge and capacities, participants are asked to prepare a “policy pitch” (i.e. a presentation of their research for policy makers) which will be presented to an expert panel at the conference. Participants will be matched in groups of 2-3 depending on their research topics. This provides participants with the chance to network and collaborate with colleagues prior to the conference and exchange ideas for policy influence in relation to their research areas. The preparation of the pitches takes place in the weeks between the online training and the conference and the groups will also be assigned a mentor before the final pitching session at the conference. The best policy pitch will receive an award at the end of the conference.

A requirement for participation is that participants have somewhat consolidated or preliminary research results suitable for developing a policy proposal. The thematic scope of these proposals is broad and guided by the theme of “Input for Transformative Innovation Policy.”

If you are interested in participating, please indicate your interest in the easy chair submission system when you sign-up for the conference and briefly describe your motivation for participation in a few sentences (i.e. no more than 10 lines).

3.    Target Audience and Submission

We invite participants from different disciplinary areas, from fields such as sociology, economics, political sciences, geography, public policy and innovation studies. The conference aims at involving primarily early career researchers and PhD candidates. Main criteria for eligibility are:

  • PhD candidates with research on the themes of the conference. Doctoral students who do not have a research paper to be presented yet will be given the possibility to give a speed talk on their research, possibly underpinned by a poster.
  • Post-doctoral researchers and research assistants having recently obtained the PhD degree, carrying out research on the themes proposed.

Early career researchers interested in participating in this ECC must submit an extended abstract (app. 1000 to max. 1500 words, including key references) as well as a short motivation letter (1-2 paragraphs, max 1 page) via the EasyChair system no later than 25th June 2021. Please ensure to indicate the format to which you prefer to participate (full paper session or speed talk) in your submission.

The decision will be communicated to the authors by 30th July 2021. If accepted, full papers must be submitted 2 weeks prior to the conference (speed talk submissions only need to submit their presentation as pdf). Evaluation and selection criteria of submissions is based on academic quality, thematic relevance and motivation.

Key dates:

  • Deadline for submission: 25 June
  • Communication of decision: 30 July
  • Deadline of paper submission: 6 October
  • Conference dates: 21-23 October

4.    Registration Fees and Accomodation

Registration Fee:

  • Free for Eu-SPRI members
  • 250 for non-Eu-SPRI members


  • The conference will take place at the Université Gustave Eiffel (UGE) in Paris, France. Coffee, lunch and dinner is included for all participants.


  • Accomodation for 2 nights will be offered to all participants

Travel expenses:

  • Travel expenses will not be covered (a limited number of grants for widening countries’ participants will be provided upon request)


Diercks, G., Larsen, H., & Steward, F. (2019): Transformative innovation policy: Addressing variety in an emerging policy paradigm. Research Policy, 48(4), 880-894.

Kuhlmann, S., & Rip, A. (2018): Next-generation innovation policy and grand challenges. Science and public policy, 45(4), 448-454.

Schot, J., & Steinmueller, W. E. (2018): Three frames for innovation policy: R&D, systems of innovation and transformative change. Research Policy, 47(9), 1554-1567.

Weber, K. M., & Rohracher, H. (2012): Legitimizing research, technology and innovation policies for transformative change: Combining insights from innovation systems and multi-level perspective in a comprehensive ‘failures’ framework. Research Policy, 41(6), 1037-1047.

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