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In-depth study on the inner workings of innovation for urgent societal issues

An EU initiative set out to understand how innovation emerges and how it contributes to the current complex societal challenges.
In-depth study on the inner workings of innovation for urgent societal issues
With EU funding, the INNO-ACT (Innovation in action: Studying innovation in times of crisis) project took a critical approach to innovation in order to understand how and what it produces and also its impact in addressing society’s multifaceted challenges.

To achieve its aims, the project undertook systematic information search and retrieval. It also employed ethnographic research methods to conduct fieldwork among innovators and innovation professionals in different settings. To study innovation in the making, it drew upon the theory and methods developed by anthropologists who investigate techno-scientific and knowledge experts.

The INNO-ACT team linked independent academic areas of work on innovation, broadly categorised as social, technological and business innovation. This helped pave the way towards an ‘anthropology of innovation’. This interdisciplinary approach bridges contemporary intellectual silos, and generates new practical and theoretical insights on a topic with immense practical implications for industry, public policy and society.

Project partners tackled several interrelated questions. The first was how innovation arose to its current prominence, particularly in the EU. The second considered what the different meanings, discourse and values used by various actors when referencing innovation are. The last focused on the circumstances under which innovation emerged and made a positive difference to society as a whole.

Researchers used the epistemological and empirical information generated by the project in order to deliver concrete recommendations. The purpose of these proposals is to assist the design of future actions. In doing so, they acquired new technical knowledge, enhanced professional competencies, and boosted research capacities and skills in innovation studies and management. They also established a new professional network.

Findings resulted in 10 papers that were presented at international peer-reviewed conferences or workshops. They are currently being revised for publication.

By interconnecting the mostly neglected anthropological literature and novel approaches to studying the contemporary, INNO-ACT has advanced the current scholarship of innovation.

Related information


Innovation, societal challenges, INNO-ACT, innovation in action, times of crisis
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