Three frames for innovation policy: R&D, systems of innovation and transformative change

Document Type : Translation


1 Assistant Professor, Shahid Beheshti University, Tehran, Iran

2 Master Student, Science and Technology Policy, Shahid Beheshti University, Tehran, Iran

3 Assistant Professor, Institute for Science and Technology Studies, Shahid Beheshti University, Tehran, Iran


Science, technology and innovation (STI) policy is shaped by persistent framings that arise from historical context. Two established frames are identified as co-existing and dominant in contemporary innovation policy discussions. The first frame is identified as beginning with a Post-World War II institutionalisation of government support for science and R&D with the presumption that this would contribute to growth and address market failure in private provision of new knowledge. The second frame emerged in the 1980s globalising world and its emphasis on competitiveness which is shaped by the national systems of innovation for knowledge creation and commercialisation. STI policy focuses on building links, clusters and networks, and on stimulating learning between elements in the systems, and enabling entrepreneurship. A third frame linked to contemporary social and environmental challenges such as the Sustainable Development Goals and calling for transformative change is identified and distinguished from the two earlier frames. Transformation refers to socio-technical system change as conceptualised in the sustainability transitions literature. The nature of this third framing is examined with the aim of identifying its key features and its potential for provoking a re-examination of the earlier two frames. One key feature is its focus on experimentation, and the argument that the Global South does not need to play catch-up to follow the transformation model of the Global North. It is argued that all three frames are relevant for policymaking, but exploring options for transformative innovation policy should be a priority.


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