It is a widely held view that the global economy has undergone important changes that challenge established understandings and practices. The importance of knowledge for competitiveness, welfare and economic growth is now acknowledged by most policy-makers, as is the impact of the ICT revolution, and it has been asserted that the combination of  these factors with innovation (which is on everybody’s lips these days) represents a qualitative shift in how the economy (including policy) works. Policy makers have tried to accommodate these new trends in various ways. However, in many cases the policies that come out of this recognition, such as the European Union’s “Lisbon agenda”, are not very novel and arguably not so useful either. It is as if the new perspectives that have developed during the last decades, such as evolutionary and innovation systems approaches etc., have only managed to influence policymakers’ awareness of what the important challenges are (the choice of agenda) but not their capacity to deal with these challenges. The question we wished to address was if we can do better in this regard.

This workshop was explorative in character and had four sessions. The first of these focused on how (if) evolutionary theory can help thinking about policy, the second considered how policy designs (innovation policy for example) have developed in the last decade or so (and the extent to which evolutionary ideas have had a say in this), the third asked the question of what evolutionary thinking has to contribute to the arguably most challenging policy issue of our times, climate change, and the final session tried to bring all these things together and consider what might be done next.

The workshop was arranged at, by the CAS project Understanding Innovation. It started with introductions by Jan Fagerberg and Sjur Kasa. The rest of the program is summarized below:


(1) What are possible contributions from evolutionary theorizing to policy discussions?

Staffan Jacobson (Chalmers University of Technology) led the session. The following spoke about the possible relevance of central evolutionary concepts and ideas for policy:

  • Richard Nelson (Columbia University, New York). Variety, selection and retention
  • Jane Calvert (University of Edinburgh). Knowledge
  • Michelle Gittelman (Rutgers Business School, New Jersey). Inertia
  • Peter Murmann (Australian School of Business). Co-evolution
  • Bart Verspagen. Trajectories, paths & (multiple) equilibria

(2) To what extent has evolutionary thinking already influenced political action (and not

only the rhetoric)? Are there good examples? What can we learn from these attempts?

David Mowery led the session, which included contributions by:

  • Bjørn Terje Asheim (Lund University). Regional level
  • Paul Nightingale. National experiences from the UK
  • Tarmo Lemola (Advansis, Helsinki). National experiences from Finland
  • Staffan Jacobsson and Charles Edquist. National experiences from Sweden
  • Susana Borrás (Copenhagen Business School). European level
  • Michael Harris (National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts, UK). Policymakers perspective

(3) Can evolutionary ideas help us to face the challenge from climate change? If so, how?

Bengt Åke Lundvall (University of Aalborg) led the discussion following interventions by:

  • Sjur Kasa. Policy responses to impacts of climate change
  • Marko Hekkert (Utrecht University). How can we promote low carbon technologies?
  • Phil Cooke (Cardiff University). Green Innovation
  • Knut Alfsen (University of Oslo). The Norwegian Low-Emission Committee

(4) Where to go from here?

Magnus Gulbrandsen led discussion of the last session which considered the main lessons from the workshop, and what should be done as follow-up. The following speakers were asked to give introductions to this discussion:

  • Merle Jacob (University of Oslo)
  • Ben Martin
  • Stan Metcalfe
  • Michael Harris