Introduction to Transformative Innovation Policy Consortium

The Transformative Innovation Policy Consortium (TIPC) is a group of policy makers and funding agencies working together to give substance to a new framing for Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) policy that aims to contribute to addressing global societal challenges, as encapsulated in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, including climate change, inequality, employment and pathways to economic growth and development.


Co-ordinated by the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at the University of Sussex in the UK, the current members are innovation ministries and funding agencies from Colombia, Finland, Mexico, Norway, South Africa and Sweden. There are additional associate programmes in China, Brazil, Panama, Netherlands, Senegal, Ghana, and Kenya. For more details, please see our members’ page.

TIPC is underpinned by recent work on the Three Frames of Innovation with Frame 3 being ‘Transformative Innovation Policy’ (Schot, Steinmueller 2018). Frame 1 refers to policies aimed at generating social benefits through R&D investment.  While Frame 2 takes account of the systemic relationship between these investments, and the industrial and institutional framework of a country, the so-called National Systems of Innovation.

Diagram of three frames of innovation, Source: Schot, Steinmueller, 2018, Transformative Innovation Policy Consortium
Transformative Innovation Policy aims to shape and deliver new methods and tools to work alongside other associated ‘policy mixes’ in a transdisciplinary way. TIPC is the interface between the worlds of research, business, government, media and civil society. During the process all participants are positioned as active co-researchers and co-policy designers.

Frame three, ‘transformative innovation’ offers an emerging and fresh approach to thinking about the role of Science, technology and innovation policy in the implementation of these goals.  Transformative Innovation is a policy framing that aims to contribute to addressing global challenges, as captured by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). An overarching ambition is to see the widespread adoption of new transformative innovation policies and practices across the globe.

Working together in a five year programme that mobilises empirical research, and combines it with policy experimentation; training; skills development; evaluation; and communications, TIPC is building constituencies behind transformative policies to allow up-scaling.  This transdisciplinary approach is already generating new frameworks, standards and narratives and exploring novel ways to harness mutual policy learning between countries in the Global North and South.

three framings of innovation policy

Over the last decades two conceptual frameworks for innovation in science and technology have dominated the development of innovation policy-making. Most innovation policies have been based on the 20th century supply-driven innovation model, which takes competition between nations and support for R&D as the main entry point for policy making. Both frames assume economic growth is always positive, and do not take into account many of the unintended consequences of science & technology development that have adversely impacted society and the environment. A third frame is emerging that is radically different to the previous two frames, one that places social and environmental problems at the heart of policy-making: Transformative Innovation Policy.



The first framing portrayed innovation policy as providing incentives for the market to produce socially and economically desired levels of science knowledge (R&D). This is mainly implemented by subsidies and measures to enhance the ‘appropriability’ of innovation (IPR). To identify which areas need support, foresight has been developed. With respect to negative externalities, various forms of technology assessment have been established and, to protect society if the impacts are becoming a problem, regulation is put in place. This framing identities the most important element of innovation as the discovery process (invention) and gives rise to the linear model in which technology is the application of scientific knowledge. The linear model privileges discovery over application. In part because the rewards of application are assumed to be carried out through an adequate functioning of the market system. Only in the case of market failure, is government action required.


The second framing aims to make better use of knowledge production, supports commercialisation and bridges the gap between discovery and application. This framing takes as central various forms of learning including: those acquired by using, producing and interacting; linkages between various actors; absorptive capacity and capability formation of firms; and finally, entrepreneurship. The rationale for policy intervention is system failure – the inability to make the most out of what is available due to missing or malfunctioning links in the innovation system. Innovation policy focuses, for example, on technology transfer, building technology platforms and technology clusters to stimulate interaction and human capital formation. Further, in this model, foresight, technology assessment and regulation are add-ons to the core activity of promoting innovation (on the assumption that any innovation is desirable and good since innovation is the motor for producing economic growth and competiveness).


A third frame for innovation policy is that of transformative change which takes as a starting point that negative impacts or externalities of innovation can overtake positive contributions. This frame focuses on mobilising the power of innovation to address a wide range of societal challenges including inequality, unemployment and climate change. It emphasises policies for directing socio-technical systems into socially desirable directions and embeds processes of change in society. Innovation Policy 3.0 explores issues around socio-technical system change to give a structural transformation in: governance arrangements between the state, the market, civil society and science; experimentation and societal learning; responsible research and innovation; and, finally, a more constructive role for foresight to shape innovation processes from the outset and on a continuing basis.


This flowchart below demonstrates the principal difference between Frames 1 and 2, and then that of Frame 3. Frames 1 and 2 assume public welfare will be addressed through the stimulus of new knowledge and innovation which will be utilised by industry to achieve economic growth. Frame 3 explicitly and fundamentally addresses societal goals as a primary focus. By tackling societal challenges first and foremost, Frame 3 thinking supposes that, with attention on social and environmental welfare, there will be greater productivity and less inequality, therefore then, increased economic growth. It flows counter to that of Frame 1 and 2 assumptions.

TIP Criteria

During the pilot year the TIPC members co-created a set of six criteria to help understand the steps towards achieving Transformative Innovation Policy (TIP).

TIP Criteria, Transformative Innovation Policy Consortium

TIP Glossary

Within TIPC, members are re-thinking innovation policy, drawing on evolving and emerging academic theory in socio-technical transitions, and developing a shared vocabulary in order to understand key concepts. 
TIP Glossary, Transformative Innovation Policy Consortium

The Theory

Sustainability Transitions and Socio-technical transitions theory underpins much of the thinking on Transformative Innovation Policy.

Socio-technical system transformation is very different from just developing new radical technological solutions. The evolution and focus on the social aspects, connected with the technical, is also key. Without this dual focus a transition will not occur. For example, science, technology and innovation policy can focus on the introduction of electric vehicles and its weak spot: overcoming the limited range through battery development.

Socio-technical system for mobility, TIP theory,Transformative Innovation Policy Consortium
However, if the electric vehicle only is a substitute for the current car and we continue with a car dominated mobility system, the low carbon and inclusive economy will still be far away. Industry structures may be transformed but ambitious SDGs will not be met. Therefore, we argue, it would be better to focus innovation policies supporting the emergence of new mobility systems, in which for example, private car ownership is less important, other mobility modalities such as small taxi vans, public transportation, walking and bicycling are more used in combination with, for example, electric vehicles that are provided by types of companies dedicated to the provision of mobility services using ICT capabilities e.g. mobility apps. In this new system, mobility planning and thus also reduction of mobility has become an objective of all actors, and even a symbol of modern behaviour. This is what we call a socio-technical system transition, it implicates co-production of social, behavioural and technological change in an interrelated way. For more information, please read our Guide to Deep Transitions, and the position paper that TIPC’s work derives from.
Theory behind TIP's work, Transformative Innovation Policy Consortium
Three Frames for Innovation Policy: R&D, systems of Innovation and transformative change. Johan Schot, W. Edward Steinmueller, Transformative Innovation Policy Consortium

STI, TIP & The Sustainable Development goals

“TIP  offers  an  integrated  and  system  approach  which  targets  the  underlying  connections  among  SDGs.  It  does  not  treat  the  SDGs  as  individual  targets  to  engage  with  through  a  ticking  the  box  or  checklist  exercise. It  focuses  on  transformation  processes  that  format  specific  outcomes  as  defined  by  the  entire  collection  of  SDGs.”

Johan  Schot,  TIPC  Founder,  SPRU  Director

TIPC is examining  how  Transformative  Innovation  Policy  (TIP)  intersects  with  the  UN’s  Agenda  2030  and  the  Sustainable  development  Goals.  What  is  the  role  of  Science,  Technology  and  Innovation  (STI)  in  reaching  the  SDGs?  STI is embedded specifically in Goal 9, however, the United  Nations’ emphasis and narrative is on STI being front and centre in the delivery of the remaining Goals. A new transformative  foundation for  STI  must be built to guide countries along new alternative paths of sustainable, equitable development. TIPC is a way to help meet these aims.

TIPC has a new proposal – Addressing SDGs Through Transformative Innovation Policy (Schot, Boni, Ramirez, Steward, 2018) – for how the SDGs can be viewed from a Transformative Innovation Policy perspective. One which is different and complementary to the current ongoing processes led by the UN of mainstreaming SDGs into current policies. This process is driven by targets and indicators, not by the idea of transformation. From the latter perspective, three types of SDGs can be distinguished. Firstly, SDGs that refer to areas which require socio-technical system change. This can be energy or healthcare, but also more complex ones which refer to, for example, cities. This is a nexus for system change. Secondly, SDGs which refer to the ability of TIP to open-up radical alternatives that promise huge social and environmental benefits.  They may provide systems with a different directionality. Thus, these are SDGs that orientate around transversal directions across systems, such as no poverty, gender equality, climate action and decent work.  Finally, there are goals which are framework conditions for realizing system change – peace, justice, strong institutions and effective partnerships for the SDGs. Often, these framework conditions are not fully in place, since current networks and institutions are not willing to open up for more radical, socio-technical system change. Hence, the framework conditions have to be co-produced in the process of system change, they are part of the development of a new economy and society in both the Global North and South. Both regions are expected to contributed to transformative change. It is clear that mutual policy learning, and the sharing of that experience will be a crucial success factor in addressing the UN Agenda 2030 call to ‘Transform our World’. For this to happen STI policy needs to re-invent itself too.

Transformative STI policy is just emerging in various contexts. There is limited experience and the policy itself is experimental. STI policy-makers across the world need to acquire new capabilities and become strategic catalysts for this transformative, ground-breaking change

Addressing SDGs through Transformative Innovation Policy, Schot, Ramirez, Steward 2018

8 APRIL 2019 


Professor Johan schot,Keynote address 


11 & 12 APRIL 2019:


Prof Johan Schot & Dr. Paula Kivimaa










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