Thursday, 10 July 2014

Foresighting Trajectories for Advanced Innovative Technologies

There is a renewed determination in the UK to ensure that we capitalise on the excellence of our scientific research and capture the economic and societal benefits from the basic research that we fund. Many important initiatives from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and the Technology Strategy Board (TSB), in collaboration with the Research Councils UK, are designed to support the translation from basic science to practical outcomes, encouraging public and private bodies to work together to facilitate innovation processes.

These investments are leading to an innovation environment that may be better today than it has been in
living memory. In order to capture this potential, however, we need a radically new approach to innovation support from the social sciences, to help businesses navigate the many uncertainties along the way from basic science to practical impact. This should build on a better understanding of the multiplicity of factors – technological, regulatory and societal – that determine not just which innovations reach a marketplace, but also the innovative capacity and competitive advantage of industry sectors, regions and countries.

Pitfalls and Benefits of an STS-Africa Network

By Prof Norman Clark

Earlier this year, Prof Norman Clark participated in the STS-Africa meeting, ‘Mapping Science and Technology in Africa: Traveling technologies and global disorders” in Johannesburg, South Africa. A main component of the event was around establishing an STS community for sub-Saharan Africa, and Prof Clark reflects on the pitfalls and benefits of such an endeavour.

At the STS-Africa conference, I gave a paper on research into use, and it became clear to me that many participants were not really understanding each other, and this was largely due to the wide range of disciplines present. One of the biggest barriers to creating an African STS community is the difficulty of establishing a viable language of discourse, and this is not really an “Africa” issue; it arises as a problem that confronts all interdisciplinary dialogue. What my be necessary is to pin down discourse to a set of STS issues that are indeed “African” (not just “South African”), which would encourage communication across disciplines and attract relevant funding.