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Exploring innovation ecosystems: theories, methods, and practices for systemic approaches to the governance of science and technology 
Mareike Smolka (Wageningen University and RWTH Aachen University)
Mark Ryan
Christian Herzog (University of Lübeck)
Philipp Neudert (Human Technology Center, RWTH Aachen University)
Phil Macnaghten (Wageningen University)
Laurens Klerkx (University of Talca and Wageningen University)
Bernd Carsten Stahl (University of Nottingham)
Merel Noorman (Tilburg University)
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Mareike Smolka (Wageningen University and RWTH Aachen University)
Christian Herzog (University of Lübeck)
Barbara van Mierlo (Wageningen University)
Traditional Open Panel

Short Abstract:

Considering calls for a “systemic turn” in science governance, this panel explores how the innovation ecosystem concept is mobilized in policy-making, research, and practice. The aim is to discuss theoretical, methodological, and empirical approaches to STS research on innovation ecosystems.

Long Abstract:

In recent years, governments, academia, and industry have mobilized the innovation ecosystem concept. For example, the European Commission seeks to build an “AI ecosystem of excellence.” Various regions support “innovation valleys” to counter exnovation. Academia-industry partnerships promise swift technology transfer from laboratories to markets via “innovation ecosystems.” Meanwhile, STS scholars have called for a “systemic turn” in engagement research, stemming from unease with design choices that fail to address the systemic complexities of research and innovation. Scholars emphasize that many technologies, particularly AI, are better understood and governed as systems rather than as single devices. Some have proposed ecosystemic frameworks and methods for STS and Responsible Innovation. However, empirical research is still scarce.

Building on this emerging body of literature, this panel aims to further develop theoretical, methodological, and empirical approaches for innovation ecosystem governance while reflexively attending to the positionality of engaged scholars in the system. It combines paper presentations with a discussion forum to explore new research avenues. We are particularly interested in discussing these questions:

• What is the performativity of the ecosystem analogy and related concepts, e.g., innovation biotopes and ecologies of intermediaries?

• How do discourses on innovation ecosystems relate to established systems theory/thinking?

• Which methods help us better understand innovation ecosystems?

• How can we compare different innovation ecosystems, e.g., their emergence, structural formation, and organization? Which forms of governance take place in different types of ecosystems?

• How do actors perceive their role, agency, and the innovation ecosystem itself in which they are embedded? How can governance build individual and systemic capacities for widening and sustaining agency?

• Which role do institutions play in innovation ecosystems and which competencies do they require to participate in governance?

• How can we assess and sustain the effects of governance on system dynamics?

Accepted papers: