Samverkansnätverk för innovation en interaktiv och genusvetenskaplig utmaning av innovationspolitik och innovationsforskning

Sammanfattning: In recent decades, politicians, civil servants and scientists have drawn attention to the role that joint action plays in the emergence of innovations. Among other things, the importance of the joint action networks with participants from different sectors of society has been stressed. Joint action networks - otherwise referred to as ‘innovation systems', ‘triple helix' and ‘clusters' - are believed to contribute to the development of innovations. Through national and regional authorities, public funding is distributed to such joint action networks in order to encourage innovation and with the ultimate goal of attaining ‘sustainable growth'. However, critiques have been articulated towards the public promotion of innovation systems and clusters that marginalises certain actors and areas. In particular, women and industries employing many women have been disadvantaged by the priorities made. The marginalization occurs despite the fact that several of the industries employing many women - primarily services industries - are attributed a central role in the transformation of Western economies to become more dynamic and knowledge-based. Neither policy makers nor researchers have analyzed how joint action networks promote innovation within women dominated settings. This dissertation strives to address that gap by depicting some Swedish efforts employed to organize joint action networks based on women's entrepreneurship and innovation.  Both policy and research have been characterized by a ‘top down' approach, discerning only a limited scope of actors and areas as relevant in the area of joint action networks promoting innovation. In contrast, this thesis considers that a ‘bottom up‘ approach could highlight the importance of a broader spectrum of actors and areas. The dissertation extends the arena for knowledge development in the area of joint action networks by depicting some of the actors and areas currently marginalized in innovation policy and innovation research. This study questions the existing norms utilisedto categorise and measure innovation systems and clusters and scrutinises how gender is "done" both in innovation research and innovation policy, which is also the purpose of the thesis. The core of this thesis is to offer a participative and gender scientific challenge to innovation policy and research. The empirical data includes efforts to promote women's entrepreneurship and innovation being pursued by four regional joint action networks in Sweden. These are: SAGA and Emma Resource Centre in northern Sweden, as well as Företagsamma Kvinnor (Enterpreneurial Women) and Lika Villkor (Equal Conditions) in central Sweden. These networks had problematized the use of innovation systems and clusters as theoretical concepts and policy tools before the thesis work was initiated. Selecting these same networks to work with for the purposes of this thesis is thus particularly suitable to illustrate and challenge the prevalent innovation policies and research. The analytical frame of reference used to highlight the empirical data consists of three comprehensive groups of theories. These three groups of theories are: A bottom up approach to studies of policies, on the basis of Carlsson's (1996, 2000a, 2000b) approach for non-hierarchical studies of policies. Doing gender in policy and research, on the basis of West & Zimmerman's (1987) approach of ‘doing gender' and Bacchi's (1999) approach to studies of problem representation in policies. Organization and classification of innovation systems, on the basis of Frankelius' (2005) approach to studies of innovation systems. One of my aims in this study is to depict actors and activities that have been given a low priority in policy and research. The theories employed in the study make it possible to study the organization of innovation systems and management of innovation policy with a ‘bottom up' approach. As an analytical approach, ‘bottom up' implies that policies in a given field are studied on the basis of how people at the grassroots level identify policy problems and try to find solutions. This approach does not distinguish crucial actors and relevant areas in advance. Instead, the relevance of different actors and areas is established through empirical studies. The low prioritized areas and actors would not be as apparent if those parts of the theories were used that draws attention only to the importance of a few - centrally distinguished - actors and areas, as is the case in a ‘top down' approach. The research process depicted in this dissertation has been conducted by means of a participatory research approach. In this kind of approach, knowledge is developed jointly by researchers and the actors concerned by the research issues. Thus, the knowledge development has been characterized by a mutual influence between practice and theory. Participatory research (also known as ‘action research') has a long tradition within Nordic work life sciences. Within this stream of research, two different traditions have emerged: one emphasizing a pragmatic approach to participatory research and the other promoting a more critical approach. The first focuses dialogue within a group, stressing the importance of organizational learning and consensus. The latter tradition highlights how the dialogue between participants and researchers enhances a critical reorientation of existing norms and practices. This tradition can thus initiate social change in a broader sense than the pragmatic approach. The research process described in the dissertation adheres mainly to the critical tradition of participatory research, examining prevailing norms in innovation policy and innovation research. This challenge of norms has taken place in ‘dialogue seminars' arranged as a part of a mutual Research and Development (R&D) process. At these seminars, participants from the four regional networks were encouraged to discuss their experiences of promoting women's entrepreneurship and innovation.  In the empirical chapter the results from the discussions at the dialogue seminars are presented, together with some additional data gathered from the networks' existing documents about their activities. Each network is described separately under three different headlines: Organization, Innovation and Surroundings. The empirical data reveals how the four networks have organized themselves around the topic of women's entrepreneurship and innovation. The SAGA network specifically focused technological development and thereto shared the focus of local and regional development with Emma Resource Centre. The network Företagsamma Kvinnor especially highlighted entrepreneurial women's ability to support themselves economically, while Lika Villkor stressed the importance of increasing the impact of local resource centres for women in the region. All networks involved actors from four different sectors: the public, the private, the academic and the non-profit sector. Concerning the topic of innovation, a wide range of innovations could be distinguished in connection with the activities of the four networks. For example, a new system for ICT connection has been developed in a sparsely populated area. New methods for mapping and supporting innovation systems and clusters within areas employing many women have also been developed. Wedding arrangements with a touch of local cultural history is another innovation. Three of the networks have primarily been active in areas employing many women, such as the services industries. One of the networks was equally active in the area of ICT, which is an industry employing mainly men. These networks have acknowledged that actors in their surrounding have influenced their activities, for example by granting or refusing funding. The empirical data is analyzed and discussed in the two last chapters of the dissertation. There it is portrayed how the four regional networks have challenged prevailing innovation policy and innovation research. The analysis shows that these networks have organized themselves in a manner that is consistent with the logic of innovation systems, gathering actors from different sectors in order to develop new knowledge and enhance innovation. Therefore, they could very well be classified as such, even though the contemporary research and policy on innovation systems have systematically excluded milieus focusing women as actors and areas employing many women. However, the four networks have not unconditionally accepted the prevalent norms for how innovation systems are supposed to be organized. Rather they have challenged these norms by expanding the range of relevant actors in such joint action networks. Besides women and areas employing many women, they have involved the non-profit sector contributing with new ideas, consistency and knowledge. They have also expanded the range of innovations emanating from joint action networks, including new services, methods and experiences besides new physical products. The purpose of the thesis was to examine how a ‘bottom up' approach can highlight how gender is done in innovation policy and innovation research. This purpose is fulfilled by the conclusion that gender is done in a segregating and hierarchical manner in innovation policy and innovation research when women and areas employing many women are marginalized in the promotion of innovation systems and clusters. The four networks have challenged this way of doing gender by proposing a less segregating and hierarchical tactic, opening up for many different actors at many different areas promoting many different kinds of innovations. This conclusion calls for further development of existing theories on how innovation is promoted by joint action networks. The development includes 1) a new operationalization of ‘innovation', ‘innovation systems' and ‘clusters' to comprise a wider range of actors and areas and 2) a shift from ‘triple helix' to ‘quattro helix' as a theoretical model in order to include the non-profit sector as well. Policy implications to be drawn from the analysis are the inclusion of a wider range of actors and activities in the innovation policy priority patterns, reaching beyond segregating and hierarchical notions of gender.

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