Introduction to Transformative Innovation Policy Consortium (TIPC)

The Transformative Innovation Policy Consortium (TIPC) is a group of science, technology and innovation researchers, policymakers and funding agencies working together to give substance to a new framing for Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) policy – Transformative Innovation Policy (TIP).  TIP aims to address global societal challenges, as encapsulated in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

Co-ordinated by the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at the University of Sussex in the UK, the current members are innovation ministries and funding agencies from Colombia, Finland, Norway, South Africa and Sweden. There are additional associate programmes in China, Brazil, Senegal, Ghana, and Kenya. 

TIP is underpinned by a paper on the Three Frames of Innovation (2018) by TIPC founders Professor Johan Schot and Professor Ed Steinmueller. 

TIPC is a five-year programme focused on policy experimentation, evaluation, capacity building and research agenda development. An overarching ambition is to see the widespread adoption of new transformative innovation policies and practices across the globe. This transdisciplinary approach is already generating new frameworks, standards and narratives, and exploring novel ways to harness mutual policy learning between countries in the Global North and South.

Three Framings of Innovation Policy


Over the last decades two conceptual frameworks have dominated the development of innovation policy-making which has been based on the 20th century supply-driven innovation model, which takes competition between nations and support for R&D as the main entry point for policy making. Both frames assume economic growth is always positive, ignoring many of the unintended consequences of science & technology development that have adversely impacted society and the environment. A third frame, Transformative Innovation Policy (TIP) is emerging – one that places social and environmental problems at the core.

The first framing portrays innovation policy as providing incentives for the market to produce socially and economically desired levels of science knowledge (R&D). This is mainly implemented by subsidies and measures to enhance the ‘appropriability’ of innovation (IPR). To identify which areas need support, foresight has been developed. With respect to negative externalities, various forms of technology assessment have been established and, to protect society if the impacts are becoming a problem, regulation is put in place. This framing identities the most important element of innovation as the discovery process (invention) and gives rise to the linear model in which technology is the application of scientific knowledge. The linear model privileges discovery over application. In part because the rewards of application are assumed to be carried out through an adequate functioning of the market system. Only in the case of market failure, is government action required.

The second framing aims to make better use of knowledge production, supports commercialisation and bridges the gap between discovery and application. This framing takes as central various forms of learning including: those acquired by using, producing and interacting; linkages between various actors; absorptive capacity and capability formation of firms; and finally, entrepreneurship. The rationale for policy intervention is system failure – the inability to make the most out of what is available due to missing or malfunctioning links in the innovation system. Innovation policy focuses, for example, on technology transfer, building technology platforms and technology clusters to stimulate interaction and human capital formation. Further, in this model, foresight, technology assessment and regulation are add-ons to the core activity of promoting innovation (on the assumption that any innovation is desirable and good since innovation is the motor for producing economic growth and competiveness).

A third frame for innovation policy is that of Transformative Innovation Policy (TIP) which takes as a starting point that negative impacts or externalities of innovation can overtake positive contributions. TIP focuses on mobilising the power of innovation to address a wide range of societal challenges including inequality, unemployment and climate change. It emphasises policies for directing socio-technical systems into socially desirable directions and embeds processes of change in society. TIP explores issues around socio-technical system change to give a structural transformation in: governance arrangements between the state, the market, civil society and science; experimentation and societal learning; responsible research and innovation; and, finally, a more constructive role for foresight to shape innovation processes from the outset and on a continuing basis.

How does Frame Three differ?

This flowchart below demonstrates the principal difference between Frames 1 and 2, and then that of Frame 3. Frames 1 and 2 assume public welfare will be addressed through the stimulus of new knowledge and innovation which will be utilised by industry to achieve economic growth. Frame 3 explicitly and fundamentally addresses societal goals as a primary focus. By tackling societal challenges first and foremost, Frame 3 thinking supposes that, with attention on social and environmental welfare, there will be greater productivity and less inequality, therefore then, increased economic growth. It flows counter to that of Frame 1 and 2 assumptions.

The Three Frames of Innovation