The Governance of Socio-Technical Systems. Explaining Change

Edited by Susana Borrás and Jakob Edler.

Book w Edler

Abstract: Examining the ‘who’ (agents), ‘how’ (policy instruments) and ‘why’ (societal legitimacy) of the governance process, this book presents a conceptual framework about the governance of change in socio-technical systems. Bridging the gap between disciplinary fields, expert contributions provide innovative empirical cases of different modes of governing change. The Governance of Socio-Technical Systems offers a stepping-stone towards building a theory of governance of change and presents a new research agenda on the interaction between science, technology and society.


Sources of National Institutional Competitiveness. Sensemaking in Institutional Change.

Oxford University Press.

Edited by Susana Borrás and Leonard Seabrooke.

Oxford book

Abstract: How do countries create and replicate socio-economic success? This book argues that success comes from how people make sense of their institutions when they are placed under stress. When institutional frameworks are challenged, a range of agents engaged in sensemaking processes that invoke certain identities on ‘who we are’, contain normative claims about ‘how things should be’, and involve strategies on ‘how to get there’. Sensemaking about the future and the past is crucial to institutional competitiveness and includes prospective and retrospective points of departure, as well as focusing on developing abstract causes of change or replicating success from previous experience. This book brings together a range of world-class scholars from Comparative Political Economy, Institutional Theory, and Organizational Sociology to discuss how sensemaking processes create institutional change. The contributors investigate a range of cases that cover different institutions linked to competitiveness, including labour, public management, think tanks, firms, innovation policies, tax and housing policies, and welfare systems. With a strong focus on the Nordic experience and comparisons with advanced industrialized economies, this volume provides an innovative and original framework for understanding institutional change.



The Choice of Innovation Policy Instruments
Authors: Susana Borrás and Charles Edquist
The purpose of this article is to discuss the different types of instruments of innovation policy, to examine how governments and public agencies in different countries and different times have used these instruments differently, to explore the political nature of instrument choice and design (and associated issues), and to elaborate a set of criteria for the selection and design of the instruments in relation to the formulation of innovation policy. The article argues that innovation policy instruments must be designed and combined into mixes in ways that address the problems of the innovation system. These mixes are often called “policy mix”. The problem-oriented nature of the design of instrument mixes is what makes innovation policy instruments ‘systemic’.

Downloadable working paper.


Oxford Handbook of GovernanceBorrás, Susana (2012): Three Tensions in the Governance of Science and Technology
Chapter in David Levi-Faur (ed.) (2012): The Oxford Handbook of Governance Oxford: Oxford University Press.

This chapter suggests that the governance of science and technology is characterized by three sets of persistent tensions, namely the tension between the self-organization of S&T and the politics of purpose; the tension between hierarchy, network, or market forms of organizing interactions; and the tension between the role of citizens and that of scientific experts in the decisions about collective problems and their solutions. The main argument of this chapter is that these three tensions have become more intense during the past few decades, and that they reflect the overall move from government to governance. The main point is that during the past few decades there has been considerable multiplication and sophistication of the institutional arrangements that mediate and govern the three tensions mentioned above. Tensions that were once resolved in a rather straightforward and hierarchical way are now subject to many different co-existing and heterogeneous institutional arrangements that define solutions in complex, dynamic, and overlapping ways. The natural question that emerges from this is whether this multiplication and heterogeneity of institutional arrangements is having an impact on the effectiveness and legitimacy of S&T governance. Addressing this question would require a renewed research agenda for the social sciences cutting across strict disciplinary boundaries. The final section of this chapter suggests that such a renewed research agenda would need to focus on bringing forward a ‘systems’ approach to the study of effective S&T governance, and an empirical approach to the study of legitimate S&T governance.

jepp17-4-webBorrás, Susana and Radaelli, Claudio M. (2011): “The Politics of Governance Architectures: Creation, Change and Effects of the EU Lisbon Strategy” introduction for a special issue on the Lisbon Strategy, Journal of European Public Policy, vol. 18, nr. 4.

Governance architectures are strategic and long-term institutional arrangements of international organizations exhibiting three features; namely, they address strategic and long-term problems in a holistic manner, they set substantive output-oriented goals, and they are implemented through combinations of old and new organizational structures within the international organization in question. The Lisbon Strategy is the most high-profile initiative of the EuropeanUnion for economic governance of the last decade. Yet it is also one of the most neglected subjects of EU studies, probably because not being identified as an object of study on its own right. We define the Lisbon Strategy as a case of governance architecture, raising questions about its creation, evolution and impact at the national level. We tackle these questions by drawing on institutional theories about emergence and change of institutional arrangements and on the multiple streams model. We formulate a set of propositions and hypotheses to make sense of the creation, evolution and national impact of the Lisbon Strategy. We argue that institutional ambiguity is used strategically by coalitions at the EU and national level in (re-)defining its ideational and organizational elements.

borras_clusterSusana Borrás & Dimitrios Tsagdis:
Cluster Policies in Europe: Firms, Institutions and Governance
Edward Elgar Publisher (Nov. 2008), 304pp.

The book provides a systematic, comprehensive, and independent comparative study of cluster policies in Europe. It focuses upon one very important relation that has so far been neglected in the literature, namely, the extent to which the complex dynamics of multi-level governance (MLG) are responding to the problems and challenges faced by clusters and in particular the extent to which MLG is learning and supports cluster learning. A range of low-tech (footwear and clothing), medium-tech (furniture and film), and high-tech (automotive, ICT) clusters at different evolutionary stages are studied in Germany, Italy, the UK, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, and Romania exploring their origins and evolution, firm configuration and interaction, knowledge sources, labour market, internationalisation, institutional, and policy patterns. Utilising multiple-methods, primary quantitative and qualitative data collected face-to-face from senior representatives of some 500 firms and institutions the authors provide an interdisciplinary analysis and precise policy recommendations at cluster, national, and EU levels.

western european politicsBorrás, Susana (2009): “The Politics of the Lisbon Strategy: Explaining the Changing Role of the Commission” in West European Politics, vol. 32, nr. 1, pp. 97-118.

This article examines the politics of the Lisbon strategy before and after its major watershed reform in 2005, with particular attention to the role of the European Commission. Operating in an ambiguous partial delegation of power, the Commission changed from performing a strong administrative role in the 2000–04 period to performing a political role after 2005. The institutional analysis of this article combines contextual factors and internal factors for explainingthis variation. The findings reveal that although internal factors play an important part inexplaining change, they are highly related to contextual factors. More precisely, the ability of theCommission to unfold actively its ideological and normative leverage and unfold specific forms of procedural leverage after 2005 is highly related to the member states’ decision to clarify the formal division of tasks between them and the Commission. In other words, situations of procedural ambiguity are not necessarily to the advantage of the Commission, since it does not invariably have the ability to use this ambiguity in its favour.

9781840649932Borrás, S. (2003): The Innovation Policy of the EU: From Government to Governance. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar publishers, 256 pages. ISBN: 1 84064 993 3.

In its continuing quest for competitiveness in world markets, the EU has recently moved away from a technology policy towards an innovation policy. In other words, from a strategy almost entirely focused on supporting collaborative alliances, the ‘EU now has a broader policy vision which aims to engender a positive institutional environment for European innovators. This fresh policy direction has forced the EU to take a novel approach to understanding the relationship between public action and the innovation process at both the national and European level. Adopting a strong interdisciplinary approach, the author skillfully examines the politics and economics of the new innovation policy of the EU, addresssing such diverse topics as research and knowledge production, the changing regime of intellectual property rights, building the information society, standard setting, risk assessment and the social sustainability of innovation. The conclusions pose many theoretical questions which will require further research, most notably the extent to which EU innovation policy underpins a European system of innovation.

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