Towards the societal system of innovation: The case of metropolitan areas in Europe

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Innovation serves many purposes. In this paper we study new varieties of
innovation and innovation policy which address societal challenges in
the largest cities in Europe. These metropolitan areas consistently show
resounding characteristics in terms of multiplicities of innovation,
governance and societal challenges. They serve as 'living labs' and
'lead-markets' for solutions to societal challenges. The identified and
analysed cases of social innovation initiatives in these metropolitan
areas organize for new resourceful interactions between the demand for
social innovations and the capacities to generate multi-domain
solutions. It is the context dependencies of these cases of social
innovation that open up diverse interest-based possibilities. In this
daily life-world context a multiplicity of actors select
local-interactive processes. The broad range of actors includes:
government research labs, public sector, creative and other service
industries, social entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, student platforms, and
profession-linked open communities. Such interactions represent emerging
transformative capabilities for addressing societal challenges, turning
local-societal (political/administrative; economic/ financial;
technological/social) solutions into multi-level (regional, national,
global) opportunities, and a wider range of benefits. In metropolitan
areas, these multi-domain and multi-level potentials are activated by
organizing societal synergies between "social participative creativity"
and "economic innovative efficiency" for any level. Existing concepts of
innovation systems do not capture and explain these unique societal
synergies, because they only focus on one specific type of innovation
and one specific type of sectoral, technological, socio-technical,
social or spatio-organizational (national, regional) system of
innovation. It requires acknowledging that innovation and innovation
systems are not only instrumental for economic benefits in a
system-technocratic sense, but also for addressing societal challenges
in a grassroots-communicative sense. Therefore we construct an
overarching yet deepened concept: "the societal system of innovation", a
theoretical-analytical framework based on empirical background. We do
not add yet another type of innovation system, but acknowledge the
overlaps and linkages between the existing types of innovation systems.
The existing types are the special cases of the societal system of
innovation with respect to the presence/absence of organizations, where
organizational rules and interactional play between them. Over-embedded
or lacking interactions among these special-case innovation systems
cannot capture evolving contextuality (life-world) for innovation. This
shortcoming provides a complementary policy rationale for being critical
in the organization of widened interactions (S2S, system-to-system; G2G,
grassroots-to-grassroots) and deepened contextuality (S2G,
systems-to-grassroots; and G2S, grassroots-to-systems) under the
concept, instruments, measurement/assessment of the societal system of
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationMaastricht
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014

Publication series

SeriesUNU-MERIT Working Papers

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