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P29


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Urban-centric innovation ecosystems and sustainable development: views from COVID-19 and beyond 
Convenors:
Carla-Leanne Washbourne (University College London)
Julius Mugwagwa (University College London)
Anne Marie Kagwesage (University of Rwanda)
Remy Twiringiyimana (UCL)
Stream:
Technology & innovation
Format:
Panel
Sessions:
Friday 8 July, 11:00-11:40 (UTC+1)

Short Abstract:

This panel will investigate how innovation ecosystems, historically nurtured by the urban context, have shown strengths and vulnerabilities in response to COVID-19. These insights can help illustrate how innovation ecosystems can be supported in more sustainable research and innovation practices.

Long Abstract

Cities are great concentrators of people and ideas and as such they have an increasingly large role to play in directing the global approach to sustainable development (Washbourne, 2020). Cities are highly interdependent, complex spaces where movements of people and ideas are juxtaposed with access to physical spaces, facilities and infrastructures. UN Secretary-General António Guterres acknowledged COVID-19 as a “deeply urban crisis”. The virus presents a “challenge to the nature of cities themselves - in that it flourishes due to the very features that have enabled cities to thrive – agglomeration and density, close physical contact, diverse networks, fluid population bases” (Acuto and Hill, 2021) – all factors that have been so critical in making cities hubs of innovation and entrepreneurship.

Innovation is crucial for increasing productivity, economic growth and advancing livelihoods. Increasingly, governments (and other stakeholders) are focusing on innovation policy as key to sustainable development (Washbourne et al. and Mugwagwa et at., 2021). There are many different players involved in work relevant to innovation that are grouped together under the term ‘innovation ecosystem’. An innovation ecosystem is defined as “the evolving set of actors, activities, and artefacts, and the institutions and relations … that are important for the innovative performance of an actor or a population of actors” (Granstrand and Holgersson, 2020). Innovation ecosystems, therefore, provide an important lens through which to view the highly nuanced interactions between people, institutions, resources and space.

This panel presents findings from a range of studies looking at urban innovation ecosystems through lenses of knowledge production, research funding and governance and COVID-19 responses in both developed and developing countries. As cities react to COVID-19, it has been possible to identify strengths and weaknesses in the resilience of their structures and capacities for innovation, and in their broader national influences. Among others, this panel will tackle questions on how best cities can be reconfigured as locations and ecosystems of learning, knowing and doing that can flexibly deal with volatility, uncertainty and complexity.

The panel will be run as a session with four proposed papers presented by the conveners, with chair and discussants (TBC). Proposed papers:

• Kigali innovation city: decentring knowledge production for inclusive national development - Remy Twiringiyinama, UCL STEaPP

• Beyond science as usual: repositioning science and knowledge mobility for decision-making during a global pandemic - Julius Mugwagwa, UCL STEaPP

• Vulnerable by design? Rethinking actor location and agency in national innovation ecosystems - Anne Marie Kagwesage, University of Rwanda

• Has there been an urban-bias in the directions and functions of knowledge production during COVID-19? – Carla-Leanne Washbourne, UCL STEaPP

Methodology

Panellists will upload pre-recorded presentations of approximately 5 minutes each in length, along with slides and any supporting materials. Convenors will ask panellists to watch other people’s presentations in advance of the synchronous discussion session. The chair will ask two collaboratively pre-decided questions of each of the panellists at the start of the live session, based on the topic of their paper (approx. 5mins per panellist, ~20mins total). A discussant will briefly summarise the key shared insights between the papers. There will then be ~15mins of open discussion with the audience with chairs moderation.

Accepted papers: