In: automotive, capital and finance, climate change, government, innovation, policy, solar
Dr. David Tyfield (pictured right) of Lancaster University in the UK is a critical realist of science and innovation policy. Cross-trained in molecular cell biology, philosophy of social sciences and the law, Dr. Tyfield brings an interdisciplinary approach to analyzing current trends in international collaboration in low carbon innovation. The Green Leap Forward had the opportunity to interview Dr. Tyfield before a live audience of about forty attendees at an event hosted by the Beijing Energy Network on October 29 in Beijing. This the first of two posts summarizing the hour long interview, with this first post focused on questions posed by The Green Leap Forward, and the second summarizing the Q&A session that was opened to the audience.
The Green Leap Forward (GLF): Here at The Green Leap Forward, we’ve previously talked about the need to look at innovation beyond just the technological, calling for disruptive systems over mere disruptive technologies. You similarly have an expansive view of “technology” and “innovation” beyond the way the media narrowly construes it. How would you define these terms?
David Tyfield (DT): I don’t think its just the media, but its the main thinking behind a lot of policy. We would want to distinguish between technology and innovation, where technology is just new kinds of machines. Innovation on the other hand is a much bigger issue than that and its not just the technical issue of introducing new machines. My background is in looking at science and innovation from a sociological political economic angle, which means we treat innovation as a social process. that means innovation is not just a question of great minds coming up with great ideas, not is it just about R&D spending. Its a much bigger process. In fact, a lot of important innovation does not involve technology at all. They can be social innovation, the kinds of processes or new kinds of organizational forms. For instance, the joint-stock company or limited liability company is a form of innovation.
Another important issue that we are interested about innovation is that once we start looking at it as a social process then we can start to recognize that there are many different possible trajectories of technological change, therefore there is also a question of choice between them. So there is a question of direction, and not just a question of how much innovation is happening but in which direction. And that opens up, in effect, all kinds of important political decisions that can be easily swept under the carpet.
In terms of the implications for low carbon innovation, this is very important. Because if we just limit our our consideration of innovation for low carbon to high technology, not only are we setting ourselves for some pretty difficult tasks, we also exclude ourselves from all sorts of other possibilities which could have profound influence on a shift to a low carbon system. In terms of what we mean by low carbon definition, therefore, the “low carbon” bit does not just refer to more efficient use of greenhouse gases. Its actually about any kind of innovation in this broader definition which contributes to a shift in social system that actually has, altogether, a lower carbon consumption. Read the full story
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