The multiple roles of the state in the governance of transformation

During the past decade there has been a call for acknowledging the entrepreneurial and directional role of the state in transformative innovation policy. However, the state might not only be acting in the single direction towards creating technological infrastructure or creating new markets: the state has other roles, but these remain largely under-explored.

In a recent article in “Research Policy” Jakob Edler and I study the embedded roles of the state in four illustrative cases of socio-technical systems’ transformation: cryptocurrencies, smart cities, automated vehicles, and nuclear power. In the article we identify at least 13 different roles that the state might play: observer, warner, mitigator, opportunist, facilitator, lead-user, enabler of societal engagement, gatekeeper, promoter, moderator, initiator, guarantor and watchdog.

This is a more ‘granular’ approach to the multiple role(s) of the state in the governance of socio-technical systems’ transformation.

In the article we provide a definition for each of those roles. This fine-grained conceptualization serves to understand that the transformative agency of the state (not only just being entrepreneur) is leveraged and /or constrained by various modes of governance – that is, the ways in which the state and not-state actors interact- , and that those roles are ultimately related to the specific features and nature of many different socio-technical systems.

You can download a full version of the article here: Susana Borrás and Jakob Edler (2020): “The roles of the state in the governance of socio-technical systems’ transformation” Research Policy vol 49, nr 5.

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