UCL Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy


Andreas P Kopp - PhD Candidate

Can you briefly describe what your research project is about?

Innovations that address global challenges, for example, mitigating climate change or resolving pressing mobility issues in increasingly urbanized societies, often result in multi-technology solutions. They comprise many interacting components, cater for a variety of purposes, and involve stakeholders across governance, industry, and research organisations – they are complex. Connected autonomous vehicles are a good example, as they affect and are affected by many different policies, be they vehicle regulations, environmental restrictions, digital policies governing connectivity and data privacy, or infrastructure projects. As a consequence, governance organisations often face coordination challenges, when policies contradict each other or are missing entirely. My aim is to understand how and to what extent public administrations influence complex technological innovation systems? How do governance organisations coordinate across the system? Which governance mechanisms block, which induce innovation? To do so I explore the technological innovation systems of autonomous vehicles in three of the most innovative economies in the world: Singapore, Estonia, and Sweden.

How is it different from other research projects on the topic?

The unique aspect of this project is the combination of two mostly separate academic fields – innovation system research and public administration. On the one hand, although the system perspective is common in innovation research related to sustainability transitions, the influence of public administrative processes on innovation outcomes has hardly been addressed. On the other hand, many public policy scholars look either at policy design or at its implementation. Yet, due to the cross-cutting nature of ‘innovation policy’ and its impact, it is necessary to consider both jointly, looking at innovation processes holistically. Hence, I am glad that I can contribute to the theoretical development of both fields and at the same time also shed some light on a really fascinating technology, empirically.

What do you find exciting about this project?

The huge transformative potential of innovative solutions to socio-technical challenges and the trans-disciplinary approach required to address them, really spark my interest. Autonomous vehicles, for instance, have the potential to contribute to a smart and more environmentally sustainable transportation system. Needless to say, however, relying on forms of artificial intelligence means that there are risks involved. Inventors and innovators, but also policymakers and implementers, and we, the users, have to think about so many different aspects – political, economic, social, environmental, and technical – and almost everything relates to everything else.

As a political economist by training, I conducted a research project on innovation policy and technology governance already during my master’s degree at the University of Oxford, in the context of green tech in Brazil. Now, pursuing a PhD, allows me to look much deeper into governing innovation dynamics. Exploring a cutting-edge technology that in the long-run has the potential to fundamentally change our cities, especially in the context of three highly innovative case studies, is very exciting!

What are you working on now to prepare for the next stage of the project?

After many months of reading and coursework, designing the research project, collecting the data, and weeks of coding and data analysis – and upon completing my teaching in the Department, which I thoroughly enjoyed – I am now at the stage of writing up my PhD thesis. On the side, I am also working on a few academic publications and will be presenting my work at several conferences this year. The final PhD year, although an intensive time, to me is also the most fulfilling part of this long research project, as I finally can deliver results and, hopefully, helpful insights. So, I am looking forward to it, and then to finally holding ‘the book’ in my hands!