Innogen annual meeting 2022

13 June 2022

Innogen researchers and PhD students at The Open University and The University of Edinburgh gathered at High School Yards Teaching Centre in Edinburgh on the 26-27th May to present their work and share future plans.

Participants were welcomed by Dr Lawrence Dritsas, Head of Science, Technology and Innovation Studies at The University of Edinburgh’s School of Social and Political Science, and Innogen Director Professor Theo Papaioannou.

The first talk was by Innogen’s founding Directors, Professor David Wield and Professor Joyce Tait. Together they presented a brief history of the Institute, from its origin as an ESRC Centre in 2002 until today. They highlighted the importance of interdisciplinarity when studying innovation, to be able to offer new insights and more accurate predictions, and of institutional support when applying for large grants.

Over the last 20 years, Innogen researchers have tackled the ethical issues, regulatory systems and public attitudes towards a wide range of emerging technologies and innovations in different socio-economic contexts. Innogen’s research framework focuses on the interactions between scientists/innovators, policy makers/regulators, and citizens/stakeholders to determine which innovative products, processes and business models are most likely to succeed in the marketplace (Figure 1).


Next, Dr James Mittra provided an update on his sabbatical work, which among other things is exploring the policy and implementation of UK’s Innovation Catapults (2010-2022), and plans to study current opportunities and challenges for the improvement of public and individual health in the Global North and Global South.

Professor Alan Raybould presented his work on ‘problem formulation’ to improve how science informs policy-making. He highlighted the need for clear, unambiguous policy aims and to define decision-making criteria against which scientific hypotheses can be tested. As he explained, such an approach is widely applicable and can be used to support evidence-informed public health decisions.

Dr Geoff Banda spoke about two recently completed projects: TIBA, an Africa-led, wide-ranging, multi-disciplinary research programme that draws lessons from the ways that different African health systems tackle infectious diseases; and Innovation for Cancer Care in Africa (ICCA) an East Africa-India-UK research collaboration investigating ways to link innovation in the industrial and health sectors to improve access to cancer care in Kenya and Tanzania. He plans to spend the next few months co-editing a book for the ICCA project, co-developing e-Learning materials for ICGEB (International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology) and finalising a report on Local Manufacturing of Medical Health Technologies for  the Institute for Economic Justice in South Africa.

Innogen’s guest speaker, Dr Dave Bell from Scottish Policy & Research Exchange (SPRE), gave a talk on how SPRE is re-shaping their approach to policy engagement from one that is largely ‘technical’, to one that is ‘relational’, in which facts are framed, trade-offs are negotiated and dialogue and participation are encouraged.

Dr Kate Symons, Lecturer in Global Development at The Open University, spoke about her work on the political geography of conservation and development in Mozambique and on developing digital education programmes for refugees. In August she will be joining Scotland's centre of expertise on climate change, ClimateXChange, where she hopes to continue working with Innogen researchers on the implementation of decarbonisation processes in industry and developing frameworks for adaptation governance in areas such as health and technology.

Pallavi Joshi, a third year PhD student in Department of Policy and Practice at The Open University, presented her work on inclusive MedTech innovations for early cancer detection in India. She is using a case study approach to examine the constraints and opportunities for generating more accessible cancer care in India. She has found that growing linkages between health needs and industrial development are contributing to ‘mainstream’ inclusivity in the cancer diagnostics sector.

Her talk was followed by Dr Mark Lamont, who is interested in the blue economy and how marine cultural heritage and policy work together. He has recently turned his attention to Romney Marsh, one of the largest areas at risk from flooding due to rising sea levels in Southern England, and the competing policies proposed in response (‘holding the line’ vs managed retreat).

On day 2, Professor David Wield gave a brief overview of his work with Professor Dinar Kale, Director of the Centre of Innovation, Knowledge and Development (IKD) at The Open University, on the role of engineering for innovation and development. The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of infrastructure for an agile response to health crises.

Professor Theo Papaioannou provided an update on his research on the role of the state in innovation and social justice and innovation. He has been busy translating research findings into teaching materials and engaging in networking and knowledge exchange activities. He looks forward to establishing new collaborations and reflecting on how innogen’s research can influence public policy to shape the Institute’s future plans.

Hellen Mbaya, a PhD student supervised by Alan Raybould, presented her work on the regulation and traceability of genome edited products as well as on the public perception of them in the UK and Kenya. Her thesis will consider the key opportunities and challenges that are likely to influence the uptake of genome edited organisms.

Richard Mutisya is carrying out his doctoral studies at The Open University on the medical device manufacturing industry in Kenya. He has been examining how industry–health sector interactions influence availability of medical devices at the facility level, and how different business models impact local manufacturing capabilities.

Next, Paradzayi Jawona, a PhD student at The University of Edinburgh’s School of Social and Political Sciences, presented his project on innovation in assistive rehabilitation technologies (ARTs) in Zimbabwe. He is particularly interested in the contribution of innovators outside formal systems in providing products that meet their patients’ needs while overcoming affordability, scalability, and sustainability constraints.

Dr Adam Linson, Lecturer in Computing and Communications at The Open University in Scotland gave a talk on using AI to understand and influence multi-scale systems. He is carrying out simulation studies in neural systems, which can guide the development of biomedical applications and improve mental health conditions, as well as on ecosystems to study biodiversity and habitat conservation and improve environmental conditions. By modelling complex systems and scenarios it may be possible to identify policy priorities and to evaluate policy outcomes.

The last talk was by Dr Monica Hoyos Flight, who is working with Alan Raybould and Joyce Tait on the Innovate-UK funded project REACT-FIRST. She is helping Deep Branch to implement a Responsible Innovation Framework (based on the BSI’s PAS440) for the development of Proton, an alternative protein produced from carbon dioxide and hydrogen by bacterial fermentation for animal feed. By identifying the opportunities and risks of developing Proton and taking into account the perspective of value chain partners, Deep Branch will be able to take actions that support bringing Proton to market.

During the final session of the meeting, participants discussed future priorities and ways forward for Innogen.

This annual meeting gave us the opportunity to discuss our cutting-edge research face-to-face for the first time after the pandemic and celebrate the 20 years of Innogen Institute’s contribution to innovation policy and practice,” said Theo Papaioannou, Director of Innogen & Professor of Politics, Innovation and Development at The Open University.

It was great to meet in person after two years of Covid-19 lockdowns and discuss the achievements, current projects and potential future projects. The presentations from the PhD students were fantastic! said Geoff Banda, Deputy Director of Innogen & Senior Lecturer at The University of Edinburgh.