Innovation, Society & Public Policy (Innovationsforschung)

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Immersion Project The immersion project aims to immediately give students hands-on experience with academic research, decision-making, and communication in emerging socio-technical fields such as sustainable energy solutions, industrial biotechnology, biomedical health care, the internet of things, big data, and urban infrastructure. Students work on specific projects at the intersection of responsible research and innovation in small teams and are continually given the opportunity to apply the theoretical knowledge they acquire in the module „Technology and Society“ to their projects i.e. reflect on how different ethical, political, economic, legal and media-related dimensions of responsibility relate to their immersion projects.
  • Master in Responsibility in Science, Engineering and Technology (RESET)
Innovation, Society, and Public Policy
  • This course provides a graduate-level introduction to the key questions and issues facing policy-makers and societies at large when trying to understand, govern, and live with innovation. Students will explore how innovation enters the policy-process (and vice versa); how emerging technologies and scientific progress pose questions that require political and public attention; and how innovation is (or isn’t) being governed through political institutions. Among the range of topics covered are:
  • What is innovation? What do engineers, executives, and policy makers refer to when they talk about innovation? How have the social sciences conceptualized innovation in theoretical terms?
  • Why are some technologies considered to be successful innovations, while other (perhaps better ones) disappear in the annals of history?
  • How is innovation organized? What is the (right) role of science, businesses, government, and other members of society?
  • How do innovations shape societies? Who benefits from innovation, and who loses? Can we separate technical and social innovations – and if so, how?
  • What is the relationship between innovation and the state? How do states and regions go about innovation? How do national systems and cultures of innovations differ?
  • How does innovation relate to democracy and inequality?
  • How do innovations (e.g. emerging technologies) turn into contested issues? Do all innovations have political properties?
  • Can/should innovation be governed? If so, how and by whom?
  • What is the role of intellectual property rights and monopolies for innovation? What are their pitfalls?
  • How do we know about and measure innovation? Can there be hidden or unrecognized innovations?

Over the course of the semester, students will acquire a range of concepts and analytic lenses from the fields of Science and Technology Studies (MCTS) and Public Policy that will help them to deal with complex questions surrounding the policy and politics of innovation. In particular, students will be encouraged to take and defend a normative position on the questions and cases they encounter during the class. For example, should the state ‘pick winners’? Should life forms be patentable? How should we asses the benefits, costs and risks of innovation? What counts as innovative activity?

One of the central themes of the class is the role of politics and policy-making in and for innovation: Innovation is frequently depicted as an apolitical, evolutionary process that plays out in a quasi-deterministic fashion between (apolitical) technologies and (apolitical) markets, with little room for intervention or governance. At the same time, innovation is frequently presumed to follow some universal mechanics that can be captured in the form of abstract models and apply similarly everywhere. In this course, we will repeatedly question both premises.

Please note that this is not an instrumental “how-to” class that will provide you with toolkits for how to do innovation policy and management more efficiently. While we will talk a fair bit about policy models, strategies, processes, and indicators, the principal focus of the class is putting these instrumental ways of thinking about innovation into broader socio-political perspective and take a reflexive (and at times critical) look at the innovation economy, its premises and promises, as well as its implications

  • Master in Management and Technology
  • Master in Wirtschaftsingenieurwesen
  • Master in Wirtschaftswissenschaften für Naturwissenschaftler
  • Master in Management
  • Master in Consumer Science
  • Master in Science and Technology Studies (MCTS)
  • Master in Wissenschafts- und Technikphilosophie
Master’s Blog & Science School In this module, students are introduced to scientific blogging and to the activities aimed at organizing a scientific workshop, at which they give a presentation.

Students identify and analyze a topic related to their internship activities with the objective of communicating their experiences and reflections from an MCTS perspective, in particular dealing with questions of responsibility.

At the beginning of the module, examples of various short writing formats – such as op-eds, opinion pieces, vignettes, and discussion pieces – are discussed.

Students experiment with them by writing a blog post addressed to a broader public, with the goal of improving their writing skills and finding their „own voice“. Furthermore, they learn how to give and receive constructive peer feedback.

Students gain experience in planning and managing a scientific event by organising the Science School. During the event, students present their work to an audience of peers and experts from MCTS and actively participate to the discussion.

  • Master in Responsibility in Science, Engineering and Technology (RESET)
MCTS 1: Practices and Politics of Science and Technology This course provides a one-semester graduate-level introduction to the field of Science and Technology Studies (MCTS). Students will be become familiar with key texts, concepts, questions, and research areas in MCTS that explore the various ways how science and technology relate to society. Students will acquire the basic intellectual tools to engage with current debates and controversies surrounding new types of knowledge, technological developments, and societal transformations. Over the course of the semester, students will read and critically engage with foundational works in MCTS, addressing topics such as science and technology as social practice, scientific and technical controversies, the politics and publics of science and technology, and the relation of science and technology to democracy, state, (in)equality and societal norms and values. The course literature will bring together important conceptual and theoretical texts as well as influential case studies that have shaped the field of MCTS and its core tenants over the last decades.
  • Master in Science and Technology Studies (MCTS)
Technology & Society (Economics, Politics, Ethics, Law, & Media) Philosophy of Responsibility: Applied Ethics

Our current life in modern societies is determined by science and technology. By all of the life-world achievements made possible by modern science and technology, questions also arise regarding both potential ethical limits and ethical „gains.“

Philosophical ethics tries e.g. the normatively permissible possibilities, commandments as well as limits or prohibitions of human action to identify. Classical ethics asks for example for the justification for individual actions, socio-political institutions or economic groups, the question of responsibility also focuses on the moment of accountability for (future) potential consequences and side-effects of human activities (e.g. intergenerational responsibility).

The seminar will give an introduction of the basic concepts of philosophical ethics as well as an application perspective regarding to the natural and engineering sciences. The participants are given a differentiated understanding of the problem with regard to the limits and possibilities of ethical decisions and responsible actions, which should allow a personal judgment by ethical reasoning.

  • Master in Responsibility in Science, Engineering and Technology (RESET)
Food, Science, Culture: the contested terrain of sustenance Food is at once the most mundane and complex facets of social life. From routinized adaptations and choices humans have made thousands of years ago to today’s food innovations, these complexities speak to the lived realities in which food is embedded. Food identifies regions, cultures and people, who in turn assert ownership of certain staples and dishes, from German bread to the contested feijoada – is it Portuguese or Brazilian? In a globalized world, such cultural markers of identity and regional authenticity have not been immune to techno-scientific interventions – whether they are seen in opposition to such authenticity or as part of developing novel dishes. Science and technology around food also shapes (and is shaped by) social orders, such as governance and regulation, be it how agriculture is entangled with state formation, mechanized agriculture and resulting disenfranchised farmers, or corporation’s and university’s ownership of seeds (patents). Governments also face the challenge of rising obesity rates, the food sector’s emission of a quarter of the global CO2, and diminishing consumer trust after the BSE scandal or ongoing GMO controversies, to name a few. ‘Food innovation’ has been heralded to address these challenges, where new technologies are envisioned to lead to a healthier, sustainable and accountable food system and to being key to reconnecting people to food. Meanwhile, small, often urban communities and farmers advocate for a slow food ethos, growing one’s own food, redistributing food waste, and thus equally point to how food is both a moral signifier and solution for contemporary issues.

The course will thus pose the following questions (among others): (1) How are notions of (cultural, regional, national) authenticity negotiated in the face of new technologies? (2) Based on what rationales is food turned into an innovative sector? (3) What is the constitutive element of food regulation, and how does it contribute to state formation, imagined communities of nations, even a sense of cultural identity? (4) What are the different forms of food expertise among industrialists, policymakers, civic organizations and consumers? (5) What role do categories such as land, the environment or ‘terroir’ play in the constitution of food and food identities? Through a comparative cross-cultural and cross-national lens, This module will address these questions by inquiring how food production, distribution and consumption shapes, and is currently shaped by techno-scientific, regulatory and economic orders, governmental public participation strategies, and social movements.

Teaching cases will draw from a variety of examples, e.g. food as social and cultural marker (i.e. fine dining or food as UNESCO cultural heritage), the kitchen robot Bimbi in Portugal, contestations around genetically modified organisms (GMO) across different countries, the soylent drink hype, low eco-footprint foods from food waste, urban gardening, or community-supported agriculture (CSA) in Europe. The course will address these questions and issues through the approach of science, technology, and society studies and anthropology, with a comparative cross-cultural and cross-national lens. It will inquire how food production, distribution and consumption shapes, and is currently shaped by techno-scientific, regulatory and economic orders, governmental public participation strategies, and social movements.

Who is responsible for food and health? Social and cultural perspective on food, health, and technology How to eat and live healthily are important topics and central values within contemporary societies, particularly in industrialized countries. Here, being healthy has become an important goal and source of personal as well as shared identity for many, which people often also define through the types of food that they eat. Health and food are also important governance issues as governments across the world face challenges like rising obesity rates, environmental pollution or the climate crisis. At the same time, techno-scientific reconfigurations of food, such as the example of genetically modified food, are often very contentious and the source of heavily debated controversies as purported healthier and/or more sustainable solutions. Along the way, different actors, collectives and institutions claim responsibility for themselves or others over who gets to, and should decide on health and (healthy) food.

This course explores social and cultural perspectives on food, health and related technologies and innovations to inquire what role the practice, normative approach, and policy of ‘responsibility’ takes on. We will ask: who is responsible for food and health? Is it the individual, the family, the state, medicine, the market, or all of these actors to different degrees? What is good food and health, anyways? And what role do scientific knowledge and technological innovations play in settling these types of questions? The course foregrounds critical discussions on the ways in which scientific knowledge and technological innovations play a role in how we perceive (healthy) food and our own (healthy) bodies. It traces how and why being healthy has become such a central value particularly in societies of industrialized countries. Health has turned not only into a central source of personal identity, but also into an important object of governance, with states investing in the health of their populations.

The module further emphasizes the discussion on how (scientific) knowledge related to questions of food and health is produced but also contested. These issues will be discussed in relation to specific contemporary topics, such as the obesity epidemic, microplastic pollution, agricultural biotechnology, vertical farming or epigenetics. Throughout the course, students get to know relevant social science concepts, such as biopolitics, neoliberal orders and responsibilization, nutritional scientism, healthism, among others, which will enable them to think critically about the social and cultural aspects of food, health, innovation and technology.

  • Master in Management and Technology
  • Master in Wirtschaftsingenieurwesen
  • Master in Wirtschaftswissenschaften für Naturwissenschaftler
  • Master in Management
  • Master in Consumer Science