How can technological innovation be shaped to meet the grand challenges?

​Grand sustainability challenges call for new technologies. It is essential that these technologies develop in a way that brings social and environmental benefits. In his doctoral thesis, Johnn Andersson has developed a conceptual toolbox that may support efforts to analyze and shape technological innovation for a better future.

​What challenges do you focus on your research?

"We are living in times of accelerating climate change and mass extinction of species, while human society is being torn apart by inequality. These grand challenges can be traced to our historical obsession with economic growth and the uncritical attitude towards technological innovation. But they also call for the development and diffusion of new technologies that can help us accomplish social and environmental objectives. In the end, we have to learn how to innovate differently."

How are you aiming to address or solve the problem with your research?

"I focus on improving the conceptual tools we use to describe and analyze technological innovation. Although the last decades have seen a shift in focus among academics and politicians – from the growth of general economics, to the expansion of specific technologies – there is still a need to develop analytical approaches that account for the multidimensional outcomes of technological innovation. After all, what matters is not if a technology is developed and diffused, but rather how, where and when it influences broader society."

What are the main findings of your research?

"My main contribution is what I refer to as the ‘technological systems framework’. This is a conceptual toolbox that may support efforts to analyze and shape technological innovation. In particular, the ideas I have developed can be used to specify and define the technology field under investigation in a particular study, as well as to describe the characteristics of different development trajectories. But I also propose approaches to analyzing how these trajectories emerge and assessing their social and environmental consequences."

"In addition, I present case studies of innovation in marine and solar energy from a Swedish perspective. These cases highlight some of the challenges facing national policymakers and also offer insights that may inform the design of innovation policy. For example, I highlight the importance of having a clear political direction, using policy instruments that both stimulate and shape the development of new technologies, and ensuring that public investments result in both domestic and global payback."

What do you hope your research will lead to?

"I hope that my contributions will lead to a further shift in focus among academics and policymakers – from stimulating the expansion of specific technologies, to shaping the direction of social and technical change towards a brighter future."

 
Text compliation: Daniel Karlsson

More about Johnn’s research:
The right support helps new tech companies take root
 

The thesis defence will be online on Zoom, 25 September 2020 at 13.15, link will be published on thesis' page 

More about Johnn Andersson
 
 

Published: Thu 17 Sep 2020.