Technological Revolutions and Policy Evolution: The Case of Publicly Funded Innovation Intermediaries in the Context of Emerging Digital Technologies @RSA Winter Conference 2019

paper presented at the
Regional Studies Association Winter Conference 2019
Turbulent Times: Rethinking Regions and Cities

Holiday Inn London Bloomsbury, United Kingdom
14th November- 15th November 2019 program

Friday 15th November 2019 09:00-11:00
Parallel Paper Session [C] Session Title: Industry 4.0 and the Future Shape of Innovation, Industrial Development and Strategy
Chair: Ismail Demirdag – Orta Doğu Teknik Üniversitesi, Turkey

Federica Rossi (speaker) – Birkbeck, University of London, United Kingdom
Annalisa Caloffi – University of Florence, Italy
Ana Colovic – NEOMA, France
Margherita Russo – University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Italy


The innovation policy literature has under-investigated the difficulties that publicly-funded organizations, such as innovation intermediaries, encounter in order to adapt to a new technological paradigm that was not yet known, or was just emerging, at the time of their creation. While pre-existing organizations face the typical problem of updating existing skills, business models, and changing stakeholders, newly created organizations face specific difficulties due to their newness.In this study, we explore how publicly-funded innovation intermediaries adapt to a new technological paradigm – namely the ongoing digital technological revolution, which includes the emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT). Drawing on semi-structured interviews with intermediary organisations in France and the UK, as well as from several experts in the field of IoT, we explore how these organizations have managed to remain relevant in the context of the recent technological revolution, successfully evolving from brokers of digital technological solutions to IoT system builders.
Our findings suggest that the intermediaries’ ability to successfully evolve depends both on policymakers’ actions and on the capabilities of the intermediaries themselves. Policymakers need to provide funding during the phase of technological transition, to allow intermediaries to develop the set of specific network of competences that would be needed, as well as infrastructures and services for which a demand does not yet. They also need to evaluate the intermediaries’ success using criteria that are consistent with the long-term perspective of the technological revolution and the uncertainty it commands. Intermediaries need to have both the strategic capability to learn from the feedback they receive from companies and other organizations they work with, and the operational ability to position themselves as a system builders in a relatively short time. The governance of the intermediary impacts its ability to respond strategically to changes in its environment and to gain legitimacy within the new technological context.