From Moonshots to Transformations: A new generation of Transformative ‘Mission-oriented’ Innovation Policies

Past Event
14 June 2021 15:00
14 June 2021 16:00

This session will be delivered in English with live Spanish interpretation

In recent years, the idea that innovation should contribute to the solution of grand societal challenges such as climate change has become almost consensual in academic and policy circles. Many countries and regions have promoted Science, Technology and Innovation policies oriented towards the accomplishment of pre-defined ‘missions’ that explicitly address those societal issues.

Historical mission-oriented policies – such as landing on the moon, or developing the atom bomb – sought to achieve mostly technological targets and were insulated from the broad socio-economic environment. The diffusion of the innovations resulting from those technological missions was not a core concern, even though unplanned spill overs meant that many of the technologies developed became important innovations for civilian use – from obvious examples like ICTs to less obvious ones like air bags.

Contemporary missions require the diffusion of their results to properly address the underlying societal challenges. On top of the technical hurdle (for instance, demonstrating the technical feasibility of hydrogen fuel cells for powering cars), such missions need to overcome the economic hurdle (fuel cell cars should be economic viable and affordable to substitute for internal combustion engine cars) and the social hurdle (fuel cell cars need to be socially acceptable by meeting expectations derived from the experience with internal combustion engine cars). Societal missions should therefore not only seek to create new technologies, but to transform existing sociotechnical systems. Contemporary mission-oriented innovation policies can subsequently be seen as type of transformative innovation policy.

This TIPC Open Learning Series roundtable will discuss the implications to policymaking and business strategy that result from the similarities and differences between technological and societal missions, addressing questions such as:

• How similar are moonshot missions and societal missions?

• What types of mission-oriented policies exist and how can we classify them?

• How should new missions be defined? How do we promote a sustainable direction to scientific research and technological development without prematurely closing-down the exploration process?

• How should new mission-oriented policies be designed? What are the lessons from historical missions?

• Who should be part of the design and implementation process? What governance structure must be created?

• What types of institutional capacities and capabilities are required to successfully implement new mission-oriented policies?

• What are the roles of the state and of businesses? How can incumbents and start-ups contribute to achieving those missions? What are the roles for civil society and academia?

The discussion will be chaired by TIPC’s Caetano Penna, Senior Research Fellow at the Utrecht University Centre for Global Challenges and adjunct professor (on leave) at the Institute of Economics of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. Caetano is an expert consultant of the Rio de Janeiro council of science and technology (FAPERJ) and has worked in several policy consultancy projects for national and regional governments in the area of mission-oriented policy, which has been at the core of his research and publications since 2012.

He will be joined by the following three contributors, all engaging with mission-oriented innovation policies from different angles:

Heli Karjalainen, Senior Director, Strategic Insight, Business Finland

Business Finland is the public organisation for innovation funding and trade, travel and investment promotion in Finland and a core member of TIPC. Its role is to promote the Finnish economy e.g. by funding R&D and by promoting export activities. Business Finland is now starting to develop a new concept, where societal value is more broadly presented besides economical value. The aim is for supporting activities to contribute to the acceleration of systemic changes.

Philippe Larrue, Policy Analyst, Science, OECD Technology and Innovation Directorate

The OECD started in 2019 a project on mission-oriented innovation policies under the aegis of Committee for Science and Technological Policy (CSTP), in order to better understand the different ways in which governments design, fund and coordinate this new policy approach in various national and thematic contexts. The main deliverables of this project during the biennium 2019/20 were a final report presenting the main project results, country case study reports and an online policy decision-support tool.

Ralf Lindner, Head of Department Policy and Society, Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI, Germany

At Fraunhofer ISI, mission-oriented innovation policy (MOIP) is understood as an important policy approach in addressing pressing societal challenges and contributing to systems transformations. A number of research projects and activities at the institute are currently focusing on different aspects of MOIP. In the scientific support activity for the German High-Tech Strategy 2025, a research team is analysing the implementation of the strategy’s missions and provides evidence-informed policy advice to the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. In addition to the aim of supporting the governance of the missions, the project is developing a concept to measure the impact of MOIP. For more information on the scientific support activity of the German High-Tech Strategy see: