Accepted Paper:

Spread as well as size matters: How UK innovation policy's focus on growth has created policy deficits elsewhere  


Melanie Smallman (University College London)

Paper short abstract:

This paper argues that as UK innovation policy has become more aligned with economic growth over the last 30 years, it has overlooked other social goods, including the spread of benefits. This has created significant policy deficits in other areas, including taxation.

Paper long abstract:

Encouraging and supporting innovation has become a key focus of the UK's science and engineering policy in the last 30 years. But what gains were envisaged and have they been enacted in the intervening years?

In this paper, I will present the findings of a large-scale analysis of the key policy papers documenting the UK's Science and Innovation policy over the last 30 years, along with the results of interviews with former UK Science Ministers.

I argue that as innovation policy has become more closely aligned with economic growth, this has pushed scientific imaginaries of the role of science to become more associated with economic growth too. At the same time, any scientific outcomes or social benefits beyond economic growth have become less specified and more taken for granted. The potential for innovation to deliver public service transformation and savings has also been lost. Most importantly, by taking the benefits of innovation as a given, government policy has overlooked structural economic changes relating to the spread of wealth and income inequality that appear to be associated with digital innovations in particular. This, I ague, is creating significant policy deficits in areas such as taxation and benefit regimes and is presenting a growing challenge to innovation in the future.

Panel T071
Innovation: Discourses, politics, societies, and blind spots