by Manuel Heitor
Center for Innovation, Technology and Policy Research, IN+
Instituto Superior Técnico, Technical University of Lisbon
1. Introduction: the issue - see +
Engineering and Public Policy (EPP) focuses on problems in science, technology and public policy in which the interaction of technology, humans and institutions are of central importance. It addresses unstructured and complex problems that are best tackled by combining fundamental and applied knowledge from various traditional research fields using multidisciplinary research mechanisms and tools.
Unstructured problems include issues from everyday life that are, at first, only fuzzily defined. They require more data and information to fully grasp their scope and impact. Only by understanding the incentives and position of each stakeholder can the full set of possible outcomes be assessed. Often, agents hold different views on the same problems and therefore aim to achieve conflicting goals. The outcome or emergent behavior analysis of complex systems must be considered at the proper level of abstraction and be tracked by research tools and methods.
There is a growing recognition that the future cannot merely be an extrapolation of the past! Intensive and mass production schemes, together with related ecological damages and political and social tensions, are pressing for long-term, sustainable alternatives, which should consider historical roots and the inclusive development of individuals, regions and countries, within a context of increased uncertainty, but also of accelerated rate of technological change .
Much has been written about the need to move from an economy of scale to an economy of scope and to an economy of networking and thus there is an urgent need for a society of proactive, creative, involved citizens at all levels . In this context, the capacity to design and build network communities will be of growing importance, but also require new competencies and technology-based policies and management for an increasingly diversified society.
"Human-centered systems" provide an appropriate context for the development of technology policies that enhance diversity, looking at systems design and broader educational and societal development, including the critical roles of intuition, subjective judgment and tacit knowledge. Following Mike Cooley , "it regards the social and cultural shaping of technology as central to the design and development of future technological systems and society as a whole".
The central question to be addressed regards the way to design, manage and promote critical infrastructures, new products and systems and technology policies that will promote sustainable societies at large, which will require the ability to cope with complexity and diversity . This involves the following key questions:
To achieve these objectives, we propose a research-based program, in breath and depth, able to promote the learning ability of engineers to integrate new competencies in complex systems, management and policy and an "elite" of graduate experts with transdisciplinary skills acquired in close international collaboration.
2. Building a rational for doctoral studies in engineering and public policy - see +
The main long-term concern of countries is the construction of a sustainable future. The idea of a sustainable future involves many dimensions, integrating economic, social and environmental concerns. A synthesis between these ample and often disparate concerns is difficult, although it is consensual that any development in the next decades will involve them all. We propose to focus on the idea of technical change and its implication for sustainable development. Engineering and other scientific disciplines have contributed dramatically to technical change but the issue has been studied extensively mainly by economists. Thus, the study of technical change departing from an understanding of the technology is still largely missing. Engineers and scientists who develop new technologies understand specific technologies, but often have no interest in exploring their economic and social implications. This raises the need for them to understand technical change (and, therefore, innovation) departing from an understanding of specific technologies, and drawing from the conceptual framework of the interactive models of technical change.
The challenge is to establish "technology and policy" as a field of study that focuses on complex engineering systems and products, viewing those systems and products in their broad social and industrial context. This requires faculty from engineering, management, and the social sciences committed to integrative, interdisciplinary engineering systems and policy programs.
We suggest specific focal themes for advanced doctoral studies, namely:
3. A specific concern: deindustrialization as a risk - see +
There is a raising - and justified - concern that deindustrialization is hampering growth and undermining the competitiveness of developed economies leading to loss of jobs.
Industrialization has been the main driver behind rapid productivity growth achievement and social well-being improvements in different countries in the last 200 years . Since the first globalization in the end of the 19th century, the industrial landscape has been continuously evolving, showing a clear shift towards emerging Asian and Latin American economies in the last decades. The Asian shift is not something new, since in 1750 more than 50% of the world's industrial trade was produced in China and India.
In many developed regions recent deindustrialization trends resulted from the emergence of new and fast-expanding markets; the surge of new pools of cost-efficient workforces, as well as emerging countries' aggressive development policies. In the last 20 years policies have been favouring the development of knowledge intensive services oriented towards short-term growth and the financial markets . Parallel to this process of "technoglobalism", post-industrialism advocates have promoted in the last decades services as a new panacea for rapid economic growth in developed - and developing - countries, overtaking the role of manufacturing industries as drivers of growth.
This has resulted in "policy shifts" from manufacturing industries to knowledge-intensive services in developed regions worldwide , , including the US but with the notable exception of countries like Germany. Illustrating this trend is the decline in the number of U.S. manufacturing jobs from nearly 20 million in 1979 to about 12 million 30 years later , .
In fact evidence shows that an over-reliance on services, without an adequate balance with industrial activity, damages export performance, reduces labour productivities and favours inequality .
This is an issue for developed and industrialized countries, including the US that is losing ground to other economies or European peripheral countries increasingly focused in services; but also for developing countries such as Brazil where there are few world-class industrial "islands" disconnected from the rest of the country.
At the end of deindustrialization usually is social turmoil , triggering other systemic risks related to Social Unrest . These two risks have a reciprocal causal relation between them since deindustrialization leads to social unrest and the latter leads to deindustrialization as social instability hinders attracting and retaining industrial activities.
It is in this framework that several research centres and universities around the World are analysing this issue, perhaps the most notable one being the "Production in the Innovation Economy" project at the MIT . Other work includes a significant body of research in Brazil on industrialization, namely through regulation and local content policies.
Looking at industrialization strategies
In addition to the presence of strong industrial bases, most of the well performing economies share other common features. One is diversification of activities, meaning that the economic output and that of industrial manufacturing in particular is distributed across a broad set of activities, which allows for mitigating risks but also for enhancing the capacity of the innovation system and the growth potential of the economy as a whole. This diversity can be found in countries like Korea or Taiwan.
Other common feature is supply chain and knowledge networks' complexity, related to the interactions between people and organizations measured in terms of the activities and job positions needed to produce a certain good within an economy. Complexity has also been shown to be a predictor of economic development and prosperity .
Endogenous growth theories treat R&D investment and education as endogenous variables in the long run of economic expansion, placing strong emphasis on the role played by knowledge creation and commercialization in promoting economic growth.
However, making economies more diverse and specialized is extremely difficult and requires persistent learning processes and embedding skills and technology into people and organizations as the competitiveness of industries resides increasingly in the capacity to access and use knowledge and technologies in distributed knowledge bases, spread through a wide network of institutions .
Employment and its skills are therefore paramount to ensure the sustainable development of industries and the socioeconomic impact of industrialization1414 and this is also true at firm-level, as shown by the analysis of the relationship between the production activity and the knowledge boundaries of a company - in other words, between supply chains and knowledge networks - that are specific to each industry. Innovation and ultimately competitiveness require knowledge boundaries to be much wider than the production ones , exploring historical perceptions of the utility of scientific knowledge, labour division and the shape and emergence of contemporary institutions of knowledge and innovation, as well as depicting and characterizing the tensions between knowledge and power .
Results also show that local access to knowledge and human capital significantly influence entry of knowledge-based firms into regions, confirming the need to look at (de)industrialization processes with a regional focus, without losing sight of the context and taking into account knowledge and innovation capabilities of countries and regions, thus calling the need for a new conceptual framework to address industrialization processes to be developed in the context of this project.
Another important part of the process of developing new capacities in support of industrialization are international partnerships focusing science, technology and innovation that have proven to work as a catalyser by promoting the exposure to other communities of experts and heterogeneous environments .
4. Summarizing - see +
The new conditions for the social construction of technological systems in both developed and developing societies will be discussed in terms of their impact on the emergence of new social realities in many countries. The increasing access to higher education and the continuous trends for the specialization of scientific, technological and industrial bases will be particularly discussed, including their impact for science, technology and higher education policies as factors of economic and social development on a global scale.
Main themes to be considered include:
The social appropriation of scientific culture and the social constituency for scientific development, including related implications for learning and knowledge networks. These issues will be discussed and analyzed under the context of a policy framework for science and technology development.