Inclusion is promising but unclear STI policy objective

ryhmä tutkijoita
How widespread are the impacts of STI policy in the society? are there groups that are not covered by the current policy measures? The first policy brief of the University of Vaasa's ELVIS project discusses about the concept of inclusive innovation policy and presents findings from the new comparative analysis. It also makes recommendations for developing inclusive innovation policy in Finland.

What does inclusion mean?

In the Finnish language discussions, inclusion often refers to the equal opportunities of different groups to participate and have access to services and possibilities, but there is no direct translation to the term. Also in English, the term refers, on one hand, to providing equal access to opportunities and resources for people who might otherwise be marginalized, and on the other hand, including diverse societal groups to broader communities and development processes.

The University of Vaasa’s ELVIS-project (Evolving innovation space, RDI policies and impact evaluation) funded by Business Finland has studied the different uses of the inclusion concept in the STI (science, technology and innovation) policy sphere, in which the concept is rapidly increasing its significance as a policy objective.

There should be value-based discussions on the inclusiveness of Finnish STI policy

Finnish society is relatively equal in an international comparison. However, worries whether the policy measures are reaching appropriate target groups have increased recently within the STI policy community, leaving policymakers to wonder what societal groups should be better included in the policy measures. Value-based discussions concerning the STI policy coverage and beneficiaries would be important especially in the ongoing mission-oriented policy development with potentially wide societal impacts.

Inclusion as an STI policy objective has increased its significance internationally due to the globally growing societal inequalities. Inclusive innovation policies aim at providing equal opportunities for different members of society to benefit from and to participate in innovation. However, the rapidly increasing recognition of inclusion is coupled with unclear use of the concept.

In the language of practitioners, policymakers and the research community, inclusion refers to various different contexts such as possibilities of various groups to participate in research processes and co-creation of products and services, as well as possibilities of different marginalized groups to benefit from STI policy measures. Therefore, conceptual clarity is needed to promote inclusive STI policies.

– In order to promote inclusion as an STI policy objective, we need to know what we are talking about when we talk about inclusion. At worst, unclear concepts and objectives decrease the credibility and impact, as well as the legitimacy of STI policies, highlights one of the project’s researcher associate professor Helka Kalliomäki

The study compares the US and EU approaches

The first policy brief of the ELVIS-project discusses about the concept of inclusive innovation policy and presents findings from comparative analysis of the European Union’s and the United States’ approaches to promoting inclusion as part of their STI policy frameworks.

In practice, the analysis compares the EU’s Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) and the US’s Broader Impacts Criterion (BIC). Key results suggest that the RRI and the BIC are significantly different criteria in terms of their approaches to inclusion: whereas in the EU’s RRI approach inclusion is seen more as a tool to increase the societal impact of STI through inclusive, participatory processes, the BIC approach adopted in the US focuses on spreading the benefits of STI widely across society, with particular emphasis on marginalized groups.

Finland should develop new models to involve younger generation to science

The BIC model of the US emphasizes the societal benefits of science. The researchers are expected to make societal outreach by participating to primary and secondary education activities to encourage the schoolchildren to get excited about science, also in underrepresented groups, to ensure a pipeline of excellent future scientists. The policy brief suggests that the national STI and education policies could together develop new kinds of models to involve younger generation to science. In this collaboration, also companies could be involved.

Leena Kunttu, who is the project manager in ELVIS project, suggests that familiarizing with the innovation environments in early phase would encourage children to focus on the STEM areas.

– This would improve our national competitiveness and competences. A change in the attitudes would be needed to increase the number of women in science and technology areas. Currently their share of the workforce in these areas is smallest in Europe. According to Kunttu, this is unfortunate since a great potential of competences is currently underutilized.

The policy brief proposes following measures to promote inclusive innovation policy in the Finnish STI policy context:

  1. drawing lessons from the EU-US comparison to stimulate debate in the Finnish policy context
  2. societal outreach activities as potential criteria for research funding
  3. debate on the pros and cons of inclusion
  4. evaluation framework(s) development for inclusive STI policies
  5. clarification of the inclusion concept and mapping of related concepts.

The policy brief has been published on the website of Business Finland:

Further information

Project leader, rector Jari Kuusisto, University of Vaasa, tel. +358 29 449 8291,
Project manager Leena Kunttu, University of Vaasa, tel.  +358 29 449 8562,

ELVIS - Evolving innovation space, RDI policies and impact evaluation

The ELVIS project of the University of Vaasa explores new ways to evaluate the impact of innovation policies and to develop comprehensive approaches and indicators for this purpose. The need for novel evaluation concepts is obvious, due to the fact that the major evolution of policies has not been complemented by novel evaluation approaches. ELVIS produces knowledge, concepts and methods that can be used in the development of Finnish STI policy and in the evaluation of its effectiveness and impact. The project creates new knowledge, methods and concepts for reforming the field. Based on the collected research data, policy initiatives and other proposals are made that support the development of Finnish STI policy and the evaluation of its impact, for example with the help of new indicators. The project involves several internationally recognized researchers and pioneer organizations in innovation policy that participate to the realization of the international case studies.

Duration: 1.9.2020–31.8.2022
Funders: Business Finland and University of Vaasa
Total budget: EUR 317,419
External funding: EUR 301,540
Organization coordinating the project: University of Vaasa / InnoLab research platform
Project leader: Jari Kuusisto
Contact persons: Jari Kuusisto, Leena Kunttu (project manager)
Project researchers: Leena Kunttu, Helka Kalliomäki, Sorin Dan, Johanna Kalliokoski
International research partners: Professor Eric von Hippel, MIT Sloan School of Management, professor Jason Potts, RMIT University Australia, director, PhD Peter Svensson Swedish Agency for Growth Policy Analysis, senior vice president, Dr. Thomas Aslev Christensen, Novo Nordisk Foundation and associate professor Thomas Woodson Stony Brook University.

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