Over the last decades, innovation policy-making has been widely enriched by contributions from innovation studies, which have provided new or improved conceptual frameworks that help us to better understand and deal with the complexities involved in innovation policy. Literature on innovation systems has paid much attention to the complexities within national / regional / local / sectoral / technological systems. However, we argue that not enough attention has been paid to understand the complexities emerging from the interaction among innovation systems –i.e. between countries, regions, technologies or industries- and yet they are fundamental in the highly globalized and interlinked world we live today. Responding to this gap, this paper proposes a visual conceptual framework aiming to help policy-makers and policy-analysts to consider the interconnections among innovation systems. We call the proposed conceptual framework Strategic Thinking for Innovation Policy (STIP). STIP relies on a stylized representation of innovation systems based on concepts from the innovation systems and economics of innovation literature. STIP can be used as a guiding tool to identify existing or potential relationships of competition and collaboration between countries / technologies / sectors. The type of strategic thinking we would like to encourage with STIP moves away from traditional approaches based on relationships of competition and the quest for competitive advantage, and rather suggests that strategies should be guided by the vision to progress towards more sustainable futures, and relationships of collaboration should be explored and exploited. Literature on strategic management and sustainable transitions informs this discussion. Overall, STIP builds on an interdisciplinary effort to offer a framework to analyze relationships within and –very particularly- among innovation systems, and to design innovation policy towards sustainability more strategically. We show its application by analyzing retrospectively the case of solar and wind power innovation in Spain in relationship with other countries.
Keywords: strategic thinking, innovation policy, sustainable transitions, conceptual framework, application in energy
Published: May 2016.