The Geographies of Mission-Oriented Innovation Policies

Recent years have seen renewed interest in societal challenges and problems as drivers for innovation and industrial policy (Mazzucato 2015, 2021; Uyarra et al., 2019; Hekkert et al. 2020). Under the banner of Missions, governments across the world are re-thinking and re-orientating their innovation policy mixes with respect to rationales, objectives, instruments and monitoring practices. In the turn to Missions, the state is suggested to take a more prominent role not limited to ‘fixing’ what markets cannot or will not do. To build more inclusive and sustainable economies, the state is supposed to actively shape and co-create markets and innovation systems.

Scholars are debating, among others, whether and how missions necessitate radically revamping and replacing existing resources, competencies and policies for dealing with climate change and sustainability transitions (Schot and Steinmueller 2018; Fagerberg 2018; Giuliani 2018). Yet we see surprisingly little place sensitivity or recognition of policy complexities and dynamics in the debates about Missions (Coenen et al, 2015; Coenen and Morgan, 2020). There also remains a disconnection between this agenda and long-standing efforts to promote ‘smart specialization’ (Wanzenböck and Frenken, 2020; Hassink and Gong, 2019; Miedzinski et al., 2021). It also seems strangely disconnected from relevant work on the geography of sustainability transitions (Binz et al, 2020).

At the same time there is a need for Missions to operate at multiple levels, i.e. targeting global challenges on the one hand while ensuring a localized approach to specific geographical characteristics, resources and institutions on the other. This requires a better understanding how mission-oriented innovation policies play out in multi-level governance and balance tensions between top-down and bottom-up approaches (Bugge et al., 2021; Uyarra and Flanagan 2021).

In this session we invite contributions that aims to investigate these topics and challenges, as well as other aspects related to the development and implementation of mission-oriented innovation policies. Topics that may be addressed may include (but are not limited to) the following: