UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose


Rethinking Innovation: The state, markets and society in times of upheaval

24 September 2021–26 September 2021, 10:00 am–4:00 pm


This is a call-out for papers to be submitted for a three-day conference organised by the Young Scholars Initiative of INET and University College London’s Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose.

Event Information

Open to

Invitation Only




Young Scholars Initiative of INET and UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose

There was no blueprint for responding to the Covid-19 pandemic. In the face of a tragically deadly virus and the threat of unparalleled economic collapse, states around the world embarked on a variety of measures to protect citizens - wielding novel financial, industrial, and regulatory instruments, and steering markets to develop digital technologies and pharmaceutical interventions in rapid time. As we write, there are few obvious lessons from the crisis that shook the world in 2020 and laid clear the fault lines in our economies, but one thing is clear: innovation is not only critical for addressing collective challenges – it is also political.

This conference will bring in new voices and identify underdeveloped areas of research around three key areas of innovation policy: building capacity, fostering inclusion, and democratising the directionality of technological progress. Advancing new research in these areas will help to develop the next generation of inclusive and transformative innovation policies. 

Over three days, we will bring together early career researchers from across economics and the social sciences, as well as practitioners in public policy and economics, to submit research papers to present and develop with a view to submission for a Conference Publication. We will also be joined by guest speakers, whose presentations will be followed by brainstorming sessions, where workshop participants will be invited to contribute to the development of concrete policy proposals drawing on the insights of guest speakers and their own research. Each day will be concluded with a live-streamed keynote panel chaired by an early career researcher to ensure the event remains accessible to those who may not be able to travel owing to the pandemic context.

The conference will be organised around four core topic areas: 

1. Democratising Directionality of Innovation

The direction of technological progress is fundamentally entangled with the structure of the society driving it. In particular, elites holding power in various forms (financial resources, state capacities, or scientific knowledge production) will have more control over this directionality than average citizens, and can use this position to shape technological progress towards their needs instead of public value at large. Recognising this situation then raises a number of important questions, among them: how can we ensure more democratic control over the direction of technological progress, aligning it with the needs of the society as a whole? How can public sector actors ensure their activities align with a public mandate? What institutional checks must be developed to ensure minorities benefit from industrial and innovation policy? What kinds of feedback mechanisms can effectively shape directionality and related institutions? When and why do approaches for greening and democratising innovation align or diverge?

For this core topic area we invite papers discussing topics concerning, but not limited to, the following: institutional innovations and successful examples of how to democratise directionality; non-western models of inclusive innovation and governance of directionality; public and citizen engagement; countervailing powers for directionality; institutional checks and accountability models.

2. Decolonised, Diversified and Inclusive Technological Progress

Not only within societies but also internationally, technological progress and the organisation of production is extremely unequally distributed. As the international production and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines has shown, both the opportunities to develop as well as the benefits from new technologies are clearly skewed towards the Global North, and are still shaped by colonial legacies. The race for global AI superiority or concepts of technological sovereignty show that technological development is still treated as a competitive zero-sum game, rather than an opportunity for cooperation and advancement. There is a need for improved thinking on how to advance more inclusive and  predistributive policies and approaches to ensure all benefit from investments in innovation.

For this core topic area we invite papers discussing international institutional arrangements, economic arrangements as well as norms and standards that could help Global South countries participate in shaping globally significant technological progress on an equal basis, as well as reaping the benefits equally. Furthermore we invite discussions of the entanglement of industrial policy and technological progress in a developing country context. Last but certainly not least we invite papers showing examples from developing countries that provide lessons for other countries. 

3. Building Capacities for New Approaches to Innovation

Shaping the direction of technological progress requires competencies and capabilities. It requires enough financial resources, scientific knowledge, organisational knowledge, and a regulatory environment that fosters development in these areas. It requires a dynamic public sector able to effectively shape directionality and market creation. Building these capacities at different levels of government, in communities and organisations is an ongoing challenge that determines who can participate in shaping innovation. 

For this core topic area we invite papers discussing innovative political and organisational approaches to analysing and building capacities, historical examples and lessons, as well as sharpening the concept of exactly which capacities are needed in which context. 

4. Methodological Innovation 

In addition to these core topic areas we want to invite papers on new methods and approaches in the study of innovation and its governance. Studies utilising new tools, data or archive sources, research methodologies or innovative angles are very welcome, even if they do not directly touch on the core topic areas. We also welcome reviews of methodologies in innovation. These papers will be considered separately with regards to the eventual publication opportunity.


A number of senior speakers will present their work at the conference and act as discussants for the young scholars’ paper session. Confirmed speakers are:

Further external speakers will be announced in due time on the project page.

Deadlines and Submission

  • Application deadline & extended abstract submission: 1 June 2021
  • Acceptance letters sent out: 1 July 2021
  • Conference registration & full paper submission: 1 September 2021
  • Extended abstracts should be 800-1,000 words or less. Full papers are expected to be between 6-8,000 words, inclusive of references. Travel stipends will be allotted after the acceptance letters.

We are committed to improving the diversity of voices within innovation and political economy thinking. Therefore, we are particularly looking to invite non-OECD, Black, and other voices currently marginalised in academia. We welcome applications from early career academic researchers (PhD and postdoctoral researchers), as well as practitioners whose work involves grounded research, for example from trade unions.

Submit your extended abstract via the online form here

Conference Publication Outline

This conference will follow a two-step selection process for the final book deliverable. The first step will involve selection for presentation at the conference. The second step will require secondary submission 3 and 6 months after the conference for review for editing. 

Each paper accepted for the conference will be assigned a dedicated reviewer, which will give input twice for the paper submitted. Final papers will need to be submitted 31 January 2022 at the latest. From the final versions, the editors will select 15 papers to be included in the conference publication, alongside contributions by senior speakers. The resulting book will serve as an overview of the research frontier in innovation research, but also as a guideline for young researchers for upcoming research topics in the next years. 

Secondary Policy Publication Outline

In addition to the core deliverable, a secondary policy-oriented report will be developed using the contributions from keynotes, discussion from the workshops, and policy implication submissions from each of the attendant speakers. 

Travel stipends

We have received funding from the Institute for New Economic Thinking to provide a number of travel stipends, including transport and hotel for the duration of the conference (2 nights). Owing to the current uncertainty about the pandemic situation, we will not confirm travel until a month before the conference.


It goes without saying that, depending on how the current situation develops, we may need to make further adjustments to the programme, including potentially holding it online or in a hybrid format. We will keep you updated as the situation develops.



Rosie Collington (IIPP/INET-YSI)Josh Entsminger (IIPP), Nils Rochowicz (INET-YSI/University of Oxford), Dr Fernanda Steiner Perin (INET-YSI/UFRJ), Darío Vázquez (INET-YSI/UNSAM), Antonio Andreoni (Academic mentor, IIPP)