Coordinators: Andreas Pyka
University of Hohenheim, Germany
Ben Vermeulen
University of Hohenhein, Germany

Research Area D is interested in technological change and innovation, notably with regard to the role of market and competition, collaboration in innovation systems, and governance and policies therein.

At its core, RA[D] is focused on understanding the processes and mechanisms that drive technology development, which methods are (to be) followed, which policies are (best) put in place, etc. It is hereby acknowledged that competition of firms urges innovation, and that collaboration of various actors may contribute to innovativeness. Typically, as focal lens, scholars adopt the innovation system, double helix, or open innovation perspectives.

While imperative for economic growth, RA[D] is not just interested in indiscriminate technological development. Over the past centuries, technology drove transformation of society, and brought welfare and longevity to many, but at the expense of environmental degradation, climate change, increasing inequality, etc. Moreover, new technologies (e.g. robotics, AI) are bound to affect employment, income equality, etc., and yet may be required for the urgent sustainability transition. Of interest is then also which technology is researched and developed, what drives diffusion and adoption of particular technologies, and what is the impact on economy, environment, and society. So, given the urgency of environmental crises and attaining global development goals, of particular interest is how to stimulate innovation in societally favorable directions.

Recently, scholars started to advocate for a normative role for governments. Governance, e.g. in the form of innovation policy, is no longer just about fixing markets, providing incentives, or creating conducive system conditions. Rather, governance is about bringing about transitions in societal systems (e.g., energy, transportation, agri-food). This requires not only technology development, but driving the co-evolution of demand and supply, behavioral and institutional change, etc. along transition pathways. To this end, governance is to drive mission-oriented and responsible innovation, internalizing environmental and societal costs, ensuring sustainability of growth paths, etc. Typically, in studying this, scholars adopt the multi-level perspective, transition management, strategic niche management, adaptive governance, etc.

Overarching, RA[D] particularly embraces studies of technological change in which innovation governance considers regional and sectoral differences and strives for sustainable structural change and inclusion of predispositioned regions and sectors. Typically, scholars opt for policy approaches such as smart specialization, just transition, etc.