The Governance of Socio-Technical Systems

The Governance of Socio-Technical Systems

Explaining Change

Eu-SPRI Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation Policy series

Edited by Susana Borrás and Jakob Edler

Examining the ‘who’ (agents), ‘how’ (policy instruments) and ‘why’ (societal legitimacy) of the governance process, this book presents a conceptual framework about the governance of change in socio-technical systems. Bridging the gap between disciplinary fields, expert contributions provide innovative empirical cases of different modes of governing change. The Governance of Socio-Technical Systems offers a stepping-stone towards building a theory of governance of change and presents a new research agenda on the interaction between science, technology and society.

Chapter 7: Translational research: entrepreneurship, advocacy and programmatic work in the governance of biomedical innovation

Etienne Vignola-Gagné, Peter Biegelbauer and Daniel Lehner

Subjects: economics and finance, evolutionary economics, institutional economics, innovation and technology, innovation policy, politics and public policy, public administration and management, regulation and governance


A number of conceptual and disciplinary splits reduce the analytical power of STI policy and systems analyses. Most notably, STI policy analyses have tended to frame these processes as out of their boundaries, despite the recognition that debate or bargaining as processes shape policy instruments and their targets in a world of constrained resources (Holzinger, 2004; Saretzki, 2009), making the formulation and implementation of policy instruments an inherently political matter (Meadowcroft, 2009; Biegelbauer and Hansen, 2011; Geels and Verhees, 2011). Yet, several decades of policy analysis provide ample proof that only in the rarest of cases do policy interventions come out of the blue. Normally they are the result of struggles for power, the ambition to be represented, to have one's interests included, to learn from experience, to win an argument, to see a set of ideas vested with the power to explain, and the like (for example Truman, 1956; Lasswell, 1970; Hall, 1993; Sabatier and Jenkins-Smith, 1993; Gottweis, 1998; Parsons, 2003). Therefore power struggles are not the only highly political element in policy-making. Bargaining, entrepreneurship and advocacy may be required even for the continued maintenance and performance of innovation systems. Complementarities need to be activated and reactivated. Interdependencies between areas of expertise and between organizations often ‘fall out’ and become dysfunctional. Here, we will show that governance is not only about the creation of legitimacy towards a broad public for the ‘reception of technology’, but also the building of legitimacy within a network to build support for the ‘reception’ of an organizational form.

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