Editorial by RNI

April 2017, “Agro ecological innovation and development”, by Ludovic Temple*

The convergence of the renewed importance of sustainable development and technological transitions opens a controversy over the economic model mobilized or strengthened. The first model is based on the industrialization of the production function by the standardization of the inputs used to produce agricultural and food products. It is based on the search for the economies of scale, the concentration and specialization of farms and territories. This productivity-efficient model underlies a polarized innovation trajectory by liberating the productive activity of natural and social ecosystem. It reduces the diversity of the latter to a constraint that must be homogenized. A second economic model underlies an agriculture based on more family-friendly production methods. It is based more on the potential of natural and social ecosystems and on the diverse social production structures. These two models converge in the recognition of the inadequacy of the « diffusionist » innovation model based on the concept of invention as result of scientific research and its transfer from laboratory to global agriculture. This convergence can be analyzed by the concept of innovation system. The special issue of Technology and Innovation (http://www.openscience.fr/Innovations-agro-ecologiques-et-Developpement) highlights inter-tropical agriculture in developing countries: Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Haiti, Madagascar; Senegal and on different innovation processes (agro-ecology, biotechnology, bioenergy).

How the co-evolution between the adaptation of innovation models and technological trajectories that ecologize agronomic practices generates different impacts on development? These case studies confirm the increasing integration of inclusive research of stakeholders in the innovation processes. They describe an open collaborative evolution of the innovation models mobilized. The openness of the procedures reveal themselves as a potential explanation of the impacts of research on development. A second condition favourable to these impacts is identified in processes that reduce the labour hardship or enhance the innovation capacity of farmers to self-generate inputs from local resources. The development of innovation and research policies focused on the public good in the light of local societal expectations is a main issue.

* CIRAD UMR Innovation, Montpellier

March 2017, « Continuity and innovation fertility of the contemporary technological system”, by Smaîl Aït-El-Hadj*

An unprecedented innovation current has fertilized the last twenty years, from 1995 to today, creating an era of “convergence”, with renewing substantially products, communication media, production means… and upsetting massively our way of life. Widespread digitization, combined with the development of networks, and notably Internet, is at the heart of this new innovation field, which is accompanied by the creation of new materials that regenerate most of the technical systems and the mastery of the infinitely small and of genetics fulfils the promises of new ways of improving human health. Meanwhile environmental constraints are beginning to impose themselves as a major factor of technological mutation, especially in the key domain of energies. The technological dynamics of the last twenty years is not a new movement born out of nothing; it can be usefully analysed as the second innovation wave of the third technological system having emerged at the end of the 1970s.

What then is a technological system? It is the formalisation of all the technologies of a given period, seen as an interdependent and coherent system. This modelling uses concepts of the technological systemics that appeared in the 1980s, with instruments allowing the analysis of the organisational structure of technology, of its evolution dynamics, and of the transitions in between phases. With these instruments, it is possible to present and characterise historical technological systems, to model their specific dynamics and the transition modalities. Thus, this approach allows us to build the structure and dynamics of what can be considered as the current technological system, coming after the first system based on the English industrial revolution and the second system that we characterised as the mechanical-electrical-chemical system – so named because of its generic technologies – and that has expanded into the gigantic technological transformation that took place from 1880 to 1975.

This analytical tool has allowed the comprehension of the two-stage dynamics of the current technological system, which has explored and exploited over forty years the potentialities of generic technologies, of information, of biotechnologies, of new materials and of renewable energies. It leads to the question of the system limits, faced with the major environmental constraint, and its capacity to regenerate itself in order to cope with it. The alternative could be a new technological revolution with the implementation of a new cluster of generic technologies capable of meeting the constraints and challenges of a technological development in harmony with the environment. This will depend on the resilience of the generic technologies of the current system, and on their capacity to assume this major transition.

* Professeur ITECH

February 2017, “TECHNO-SCIENCES WITHIN SOCIETY: Innovation, standardisation, legitimizations”, by Jean Claude Ruano-Borbalan*

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, an economic and political doctrine established scientific knowledge as the major driver of innovation and growth. This breaks with the post-war vision during which the dominant view among scholars was that science had an unselfish aim, developing knowledge considered as a public good.

This transformation has resulted in the establishment of a new regime with a dominant administration and the production of scientific and techno-scientific knowledge, the main features of which are now well known, but which vary by country.

This produces huge modifications and imposes a redesign of interaction research, innovation, economy, and society. Policy research, university reforms, etc., change in the regulation of knowledge production in the digital age, a mutation in the forms of legitimation and evaluation models, and academic expertise, are essential. Similarly, the analysis of societal liability concerning the impact and uses of techno-sciences, externalities of all kinds in knowledge transfers, and scientific or technology mediation, are essential to think about innovation, which is not only a ”neutral” background for “neutral” economic development processes.

In the French issue of Innovations, historical roots and development of society/techno-sciences relations are strongly examined, mainly processes of standardisation of knowledge and legitimization institutions and discourses of sciences and technology since 19th century. It focuses particularly on education and public understanding of sciences institutions, their role and influence (see: https://www.cairn.info/revue-innovations-2017-1.htm).

The articles in the English issue deal with the question of institutional or political frameworks and the outcomes of innovation doctrines and policies, in the relationship between science, technology and society. The investigation is carried out from various case studies (see: http://www.cairn.info/revue-journal-of-innovation-economics-2017-1.htm).

All the contributions in the issues show that ideologies, organisational cultures, norms and standards, and democracy are crucial to understand the links of science and technology in society… A lot of bias, constraints, and frameworks are essential to understand innovation and current societal or economic transformations. Those special issues demonstrate the necessity not to stay with a macro-level or theoretical approach, but to consider micro-level situations and “local orders”: embedded and situated activities, norms or power struggles and distribution. It plead for multidisciplinary approaches and, to develop research to understand and even promote science and technology versus society interfaces, taking into account the question of major political, societal and economical stakes, what is no longer called: “progress direction”.

* Professor at the French National Conservatory of Arts and Crafts
Chair of Mediation of Technology and Science within Society
Director of the Cnam Techno-science within Society Research Laboratory

January 2017, “The role of open labs in the creative processes of organizations”, by Ignasi Capdevila*

Over the past decade, many new collaborative spaces have emerged, within organizations or launched by independent entrepreneurs. Beyond the diversity of denominations (Fab Labs, Living Labs, hackerspaces / makerspaces, TechShops, coworking spaces), the term open lab defines generically this phenomenon. An open lab refers to “a place and a process carried by various actors, in order to renew the modes of innovation and creativity by the implementation of collaborative and open iterative processes that are physically or virtually materialized” (Mérindol et al., 2016).

Some open labs have been developed by private initiatives of a small group of entrepreneurs (like most coworking spaces) or by a community interested in a specific area (such as hackerspaces). In other cases, open labs have been created in organizations, either in public institutions – such as universities – or in firms. Many companies in France (Air Liquide, Alcatel Lucent, Bouygues, Dassault Systèmes, EDF, PSA, Renault, SEB, SNECMA, SNCF, …) have created an open lab within their walls in an open innovation approach to facilitate the collaboration among their employees, and to contribute to the development of new ideas and prototypes that might potentially result in a commercially exploitable product.

The creation of an open lab might be due to the initiative of the employees (bottom up dynamic) or the managers (top-down dynamic). In all cases, the success of open labs requires a combination of both dynamics: on the one hand, the motivation and the active participation of employees and, on the other, the support of the managers. These initiatives contribute to the implementation of organizational ambidexterity by strengthening exploration, invention and ideation activities, which can potentially lead to the commercial exploitation of the results.

Nevertheless, not only open labs in organizations contribute to the development of the collective creativity in firms. Open labs outside companies often also contribute to the creativity of organizations. In a context of open innovation, companies aim to detect and use the creativity distributed in their local environment to fuel their innovation processes. To do so, many companies collaborate with open labs from their environment to renew their creativity and innovation approaches. For example, open labs in the Paris region such as ICI Montreuil, UsineIO, or Liberté Living Lab collaborate with companies to co-develop new products by mobilizing their experts and members of their spaces.

Open labs allow companies to introduce a new digital culture by promoting the maker spirit in their teams. An interdisciplinary exploratory approach based on rapid prototyping and trial-and-error also improves flexibility and efficiency, and reduces time-to-market. Also, by participating in external maker communities, companies get out of their comfort zone and nurture their creative processes with new ideas and knowledge originating from improbable encounters.

*Associate Professor, PSB Paris School of Business
Mérindol, V., Bouquin, N., Versailles, D. W., Capdevila, I., Aubouin, N., Le Chaffotec, A., Chiovetta, N., Voisin, T. (2016). Le Livre blanc des Open Labs: Quelles pratiques ? Quels changements en France ?, Paris.


RNI Editorial of previous years

2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012