Academic journal article International Journal of Action Research

Dialogues in Innovation: Interactive Learning and Interactive Research as Means for a Context Sensitive Regional Innovation Policy

Academic journal article International Journal of Action Research

Dialogues in Innovation: Interactive Learning and Interactive Research as Means for a Context Sensitive Regional Innovation Policy

Article excerpt

Introduction:

Interactive learning and context sensitive innovation policy

During recent decades, innovation studies have provided evidence of the importance of interactive learning for developing the innovation capability of an innovation system and its members (Lundvall, 1988, 1992; Cooke, 1992, 1998; Lindegaard, Christensen, & Lundvall, 2004; Asheim & Parilli, 2012). In the wake of these studies, interactive learning has gradually come to be considered an issue also in regional innovation policy. This may be due to its positive correlation with innovation capability and innovation, but it may also be viewed as an attempt to remedy three types of imperfections from which regional innovation systems may suffer: fragmentation, lack of key resources and lock-in (Nilsson & Moodysson, 2011). However, the emphasis on the issue of interactive learning might also be viewed as a strategy for dealing with this very issue, as a fourth kind of imperfection of regional innovation systems.

One reason for considering the issue of interactive learning from the perspective of system imperfection is the structural mismatch between the general acknowledgement of the importance of interactive learning processes within regional innovation systems on the one hand, and the lack of a general agency in a position to secure that such processes are realised optimally and with the necessary funding, on the other. The general reason for this is precisely articulated in the plan document for a Norwegian research programme on regional innovation: "Collaboration is about co-ordinating and executing activities in a process where no single actor or any single institution has total responsibility, and where these processes therefore have to take place through dialogues between the actors" (NRC 2013:7 ). In short, processes of interactive learning in innovation systems appear as kind of common good that there is no common agency to ensure and enact.

At the empirical level this structural mismatch, or system imperfection, may occur in many ways: From the point of view of the individual actor, participation in processes of interactive learning involves spending time and resources, the outcome of which may appear unsure in both the short and the long run. Also, experiences from participating in such processes may vary in quality. The threshold for any actor to take on the responsibility for organis- ing events and processes of interactive learning is perhaps even higher. This does not imply an absence of interactive learning processes within regional innovation systems; rather, and most probably, they are sub-optimal, both quantitatively and qualitatively. Whether or not this sub-optimality is conceptualised as a system imperfection, the fact remains that it is an inherent structural challenge of any regional innovation system.

Obviously, there is no single innovation policy measure that may compensate for this systemic imperfection. Rather, there is a need for a number of various kinds of measures, whose common denominator is that they fit in to the requirements of a context sensitive innovation policy. As have been noted e.g. by Martin & Tripple, there is a widespread agreement in the scientific community of innovation research, and within policy circles in the EU, of the need for developing more context sensitive regional innovation policies. This widespread agreement, though, has not yet resulted in accordingly widespread examples of such policies: "What remains, however, less clear is what such a context-sensitive, differentiated regional in policy approach should look like. Scholarly contributions to this debate are based on a variety of theoretical frameworks including, amongst others, insights from evolutionary and institutional schools of thought, leading to partly highly differentiated conclusions about the nature of a fine-tuned regional innovation policy approach" (Martin & Tripple, 2013, p. …

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