T06P01 - Innovation Bureaucracies

Topic : Policy Implementation

Panel Chair : Wolfgang Drechsler - wolfgang.drechsler@ttu.ee

Panel Second Chair : Rainer Kattel - rainer.kattel@ttu.ee

Panel Third Chair : Erkki Karo - erkki.karo@gmail.com

Objectives and Scientific Relevance of the panel

If we agree with Mariana Mazzucato’s very well-received Entrepreneurial State argument, there have been rarely such innovative organizations as public bureaucracies, at least since World War II. To put it more modestly, public bureaucracies seem to be crucial structural elements of our global innovation engine: inventing the internet and all the ‘smart’ technologies inside the iPhone are examples of something that hardly any private company has been able to achieve by itself. An at least equally amazing feat was pulling Korea, Taiwan and a few other countries up to the still-small club of highly-developed nations. What we see is that radical and systemic changes in economy and society are often based on complementary technological and social/institutional innovations and the crucial roles of public policies and bureaucracies is to support innovations both in government policies, services, institutions and organizations, and also through policies in firms and industries. Based on the current debates on climate change and energy innovations, it seems obvious that increasing complexities of technological progress and growing global financial, production and innovation inter-dependencies make it even more challenging for single firms and organizations to replicate by themselves what public bureaucracies have helped and can hopefully still help to set in motion. Today’s leading city governments are experimenting with self-driving cars, smart grids, blockchain based public ledgers, and so forth – many of these experiments that combine technological and social/institutional innovations will significantly change the way we live. Yet, what are these bureaucracies like, as organizations? How do they work, are there common principles to their successes, or failures?

In the scant existing literature on this dual challenge, we can find two almost juxtaposing views on innovation bureaucracies, associated with two great social scientists: The first view argues that ‘traditional’ Weberian expert and professional organizations deliver innovations (especially in the sense of institutional complementarities); the second claims argues that Schumpeterian small and agile, often peripheral organizations do a better job at innovations than others (especially in the sense of internal dynamism and public sector innovation capacities). The debate on the role of the state in innovation often gets stuck just at this juncture, trying to find the definitive answer and policy prescription to the question: Should we still stick to modernizing Weberian meritocracies, or move radically towards experimental, start-up like governments?

Therefore, in this panel, we want to look at innovation bureaucracies with an explicit focus on two of their crucial roles:

  1. How do successful innovation bureaucracies complement private sector activities and capabilities in innovation processes (institutional complementarities)?
  2. How do successful innovation bureaucracies create and sustain internal dynamism and ability for public sector innovations in policies, services, institutions and organizations?

This panel sets out to get closer to an answer to these questions, mainly via case studies (countries, agencies, policy areas), but theoretical contributions are welcome as well. 

Call for papers

Public bureaucracies seem to be crucial structural elements of our global innovation engine: inventing the internet and all the ‘smart’ technologies inside the iPhone are examples of something that hardly any private company has been able to achieve by itself. An at least equally amazing feat was pulling Korea, Taiwan and a few other countries up to the still-small club of highly-developed nations. Radical and systemic changes in economy and society are often based on complementary technological and social/institutional innovations and the crucial roles of public policies and bureaucracies is to support innovations both in government policies, services, institutions and organizations, and also through policies in firms and industries.

Yet, what are these bureaucracies like, as organizations? How do they work, are there common principles to their successes, or failures?  Therefore, in this panel, we want to look at innovation bureaucracies with an explicit focus on two of their crucial roles:

  1. How do successful innovation bureaucracies complement private sector activities and capabilities in innovation processes (institutional complementarities)?
  2. How do successful innovation bureaucracies create and sustain internal dynamism and ability for public sector innovations in policies, services, institutions and organizations?

In order to get closer to an answer to these questions, we are looking mainly to case studies (countries, agencies, policy areas), but theoretical contributions are welcome as well.

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