Dr Matias Ramirez


28th June 2018 at 13:00pm


Mithras House, University of Brighton


Transformative innovation is emerging in policy circles as a third frame of innovation policy that specifically addresses “wicked challenges” of world economies. This approach suggests that meeting important societal challenges such as climate change and social inclusion requires a radically different framing for ST&I policy than has been the case until now (Cagnin, Amanatidou, & Keenan, 2012; Coenen, Lars; Hansen, Teis; Rekers, 2015; Coenen, Hansen, & Rekers, 2015; Ulnicane, 2016). Emphasis is placed on opening up the policy process to new societal actors and above all establishing directionality in policy that addresses societal challenges rather than “policy neutral” approaches. This approach has been boosted by new policy agendas such as the Lund declaration by the European Union in 2009 and the adoption of the United Nations sustainable development goals in 2016 which call for STI to contribute to addressing major world societal challenges. The transitions approach differs to past framings of STI policy most radically by arguing that addressing many of the global challenges requires more deep seated changes in socio technical systems, but that these are unlikely to be initiated from incumbent actors within a socio technical regime, but rather through niches made up of actors in civil society that are developing alternative visions that more sustainable and inclusive in areas such as mobility, energy and food systems, some of which that may not be involved previously in the sector or policy. The role of policy therefore is to facilitate and in some cases orchestrate (rather than implement) the growth of these niches that have the potential to undermine incumbent socio-technical regimes. Attention is placed on broad systems transformation to achieve long term alterations in production and consumption. In contrast to system of innovation approaches, rather than addressing system failures, policy prioritizes “transformation failures”. In this talk I will explain some of the elements of this approach but then also explore some of the implications of this approach for regional innovation policy.


After working ten years as a freelance journalist in Chile, I studied economics at University College London and in 2001 completed a PhD at the Manchester School of Mangement (now part of the University of Manchester) looking at how labour markets and work organisation influence organisational capabilities and technological innovation in the UK and US telecommunications sector. Subsequently, I worked as a researcher at Birkbeck College and was a lecturer at Brunel University between 2003 and 2007. I joined SPRU at the University of Sussex in 2007 and am currently senior lecturer.

My research interests were initially centred on the role of knowledge work and innovation in innovative organisations and regional clusters. This included leading an ESRC project on labour markets, knowledge transfer and innovation in China’s Zhongguancun Science Park. More recently the focus of my research has been on innovation policy and societal grand challenges, with particular emphasis on questions of inclusion and sustainability in Latin America. This has led to a number of projects and publications on topics related to small producer involvement in agribusiness clusters, intermediation, transformative innovation, the sustainable development goals and the role of social movements in transformative innovation. I am actively involved in the Transformative Innovation Policy Consortium (http://tipconsortium.net/) with responsibiity for Latin America where I led a series of projects through a three-year collaboration between SPRU and Colciencias, the national Colombian science and technology agency. I am currently working with a number of universities and national science and technology agencies in Latin America including CONACYT of Mexico on developing methodologies for transformative innovation in the region.