Mission-oriented innovation policy intends to shape society – University of Vaasa investigates whether inclusion could improve policy acceptability

Today innovation policy tends to tackle global challenges like the pandemic, climate change, globalisation, energy transformation and digitalisation. It is clear that the scope of traditional innovation policy needs to be redefined. Mission-oriented innovation policy represents a more strategic policy approach. What type of mission-oriented policy is appropriate for Finland? And how could the acceptability of such top-down policies be improved? The University of Vaasa studies the subject in the new MISS project funded by Business Finland.

In a mission-oriented approach, the EU and national governments select the direction of strategic change that is supported and pushed forward jointly by numerous actors. The challenge is that such top down policies do not necessarily sufficiently recognise their impact on everyday lives of citizens and other actors. Still, policies that shape the entire society have an inevitable effect on people’s lives, on the economy and on power relationships. Missions selected by government may arouse even aggressive resistance. The covid-19 restrictions and measures related to low carbon society, for example, have occasionally faced stiff opposition.

– More attention must be paid to the acceptability of a mission-oriented innovation policy, from planning to implementation. Means and methods that promote inclusivity and acceptability are needed for enhancing innovation activity, growth and reform of the economy in a sustainable manner, says Rector Jari Kuusisto who heads the project.

Views and acceptability for innovation policy through inclusion

The two-year research project of the University of Vaasa analyses the different forms and possibilities of inclusion in promoting the development of a mission-oriented policy in Finland and elsewhere.

– Inclusion is important in collecting various actors’ views on policy development and for obtaining wider social acceptance for innovation policy. In addition, grassroots actors, businesses, organisations and groups of citizens can be activated to become agents of social change. We must ensure that underrepresented groups and minorities are also taken into account in the planning of policies and as beneficiaries, says associate professor Helka Kalliomäki, a researcher in the project.

The project also analyses users’ ability to produce innovations from a systems of use perspective. User innovations are often discussed regarding individual products and services, but from a systems of use perspective users are key actors of innovations and a mission-oriented policy, not merely objects of the policy.

– We study systemic changes from the perspectives of policy inclusion and systems of use. By combining these two perspectives with innovation-driven systemic change we can create a new way to analyse innovation policy, says project manager Leena Kunttu.

The project aims to implement approximately five new international case studies focused on the mission-oriented innovation policy, systems of use and inclusion. The results of the analysis will be compared and contrasted with existing research and practices.

– This study can for its part improve the social impact of the mission-driven RDI policy. The project creates new knowledge and develops concrete methods, criteria, tools and proposals for action. These can be used to promote wide-scale social engagement and inclusiveness of the innovation policy, says the project’s doctoral researcher Johanna Kalliokoski.

International top researchers in the project

In addition to Jari Kuusisto who heads the project and project manager Leena Kunttu, the research project also includes Associate Professor Helka Kalliomäki and doctoral researcher Johanna Kalliokoski from the University of Vaasa.

Many international top researchers participate in the project: Professor Eric von Hippel from MIT Sloan School of Management; Dr. Peter Svensson, Director of the Tillväxt Analys research institution in Sweden; Associate Professor Thomas Woodson from the Stony Brook University in the United States; Associate Professor Jakob Trischler from the University of Karlstad; Johan Füller, Professor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of Innsbruck; Nicholas Vonortas from the Institute for International Science and Technology Policy at the George Washington University; Associate Professor Judithanne Scourfield McLauchlan from the University of South Florida; and Senior Researcher Jeroen Peeters from RISE.

Further information

Project leader Jari Kuusisto, Rector, University of Vaasa, tel +358 29 449 8291, jari.kuusisto@uwasa.fi
Project manager Leena Kunttu, University of Vaasa, tel. +358 29 449 8562, leena.kunttu@uwasa.fi

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