From our President: The importance of innovation

19 January 2015

Even the University of Oxford now recognises the importance of innovation. Of course, the University has long been innovative and innovating in the sense of creating inventions and academic breakthroughs. But seeing these through to new products and processes was not necessarily the University’s thing. Indeed, it has long been a criticism of the UK’s economic and corporate makeup that we have been good at inventing, but if you wanted to see the inventions put to profitable use one needed to go to the US, Germany, Japan or China.

But the University’s own spin-out organisation, Isis Innovation, is now held in high regard globally. Many of the University’s degree programmes are both innovative in their design and also teach various aspects of innovation, such as the Master’s in Evidence-Based Health Care. And the University recently convened a high-level Working Group with representatives from other leading universities globally that suggested various ways in which the ‘innovation agenda’ might be usefully taken forward.

For my part, with Professor Ulrich Hilpert of the University of Jena in Germany, I’m convening a two-day conference at Kellogg on how public and corporate policy might best promote innovation, drawing on the experience and expertise of leading Germany industrialists and trade unionists, as well as other experts from across the globe. The papers will be considered for publication in a special issue of the Academy of Social Sciences’ journal, Contemporary Social Sciences.

To be held at Kellogg College on February 17-18, this is an invitation-only event, but anyone who would like to be included, please let me know. Papers are welcome that explore diversities of innovation – both product and process – across countries and industries; that consider the roles of personal, corporate, institutional and government activities in promoting innovation; and that explore Innovation as the outcome of human labour and of the relationships between individuals and groups.

Particular topics of interest include, inter alia, labour and labour markets; culture as a basis for divergent opportunities; continental division of modes of innovation; metropolitan industrial policy; regionalisation of innovation; the relation between innovative industries and the services they require; the role of government for innovation; modes of innovation as science-based, technology-based and tradition based; knowledge for innovation, including scientific and ‘blue collar’; islands of innovation; sectors, industries and history; education as a basis of innovation; and governmental structures (including federal vs. centralized) as an important issue for developing appropriate innovation.

Soundly empirically based papers are preferred, although high quality scholarly essays will also be considered.

Jonathan Michie,
January 2015

Follow Jonathan on Twitter @Jonathan_Michie