The New Role of the State for Diffusion and Emergence of Innovation

Herrenhausen Palace
Researchers and Professionals

Major Challenges ahead: How can governments and state-related actors stimulate innovation and spread its benefits? Experts from various disciplines, fields and countries will discuss the new role of the state at a Herrenhausen Conference on February 20-22, 2019.

Promoting innovation is an important task in modern societies.
Promoting innovation is an important task in modern societies. (Foto: ©EtiAmmos -

The role of the state and of state governments in knowledge societies for the stimulation, regulation and diffusion of innovation has been debated in politics and various social sciences for years, especially in times of economic crisis. Current discussions include the question whether and how state-related actors and agencies can mobilize innovations and drive their diffusion to properly address Grand Societal Challenges and Sustainable Development Goals worldwide: climate and environmental threats, natural resource scarcities, increasing levels of inequality and exclusion and the challenges of the digitalization and robotization of our lives, to name a few.

On this background, the search for a governance scheme most effective in pushing respective innovation and diffusion activities cannot escape the old debate on state versus market or on centralized versus decentralized planning or on autocratic versus democratic decision making. In this context, we also need to reflect on what we mean by "state" and "statehood" in the 21st Century as well as new state dimensions such as "new publicness", like in the sharing economy. These crucial debates deserve a broader, transdisciplinary platform to account for the various disciplinary viewpoints on the questions at hand.

Therefore, Uwe Cantner (Friedrich Schiller University, Jena), Dirk Fornahl (University of Bremen) and Stefan Kuhlmann (University of Twente) asked researchers worldwide to join the Herrenhausen Conference and present their perspectives to the debate.

Questions of the conference include:

  • Has state-driven innovation (policy) positive impacts on welfare and growth?
  • What is the role of the state and "statehood" for innovation vis-à-vis economic and social actors?
  • How can governments and innovation policy address societal transitions and grand societal changes?
  • How to overcome innovation system lock-in? Is there a role for "creative corporatism" beyond incumbent stakeholders and new tech giants?
  • How can innovation policy be made more inclusive and help to bridge social divides? How to address persistent global inequality?
  • Innovation policy for economic and extra-economic Returns: How to master the balance?

The targeted audience includes – but is not limited to – researchers ranging from economics to regional, political and social sciences as well as policy makers or representatives from economic development agencies or other administrations.

The New Role of the State for the Emergence and Diffusion of Innovation is part of the Herrenhausen Conference Series initiated by the Volkswagen Foundation.

Herrenhausen Conference
The New Role of the State for the Emergence and Diffusion of Innovation
February 20-22, 2019
Xplanatorium Herrenhausen Palace, Hanover, Germany


A detailed program can be found in the column on the right.

Confirmed Speakers Include

Erik Arnold, Technopolis Group, University of Twente; Engelbert Beyer, Federal Ministry of Science and Education; Susana Borrás, Copenhagen Business School; Marko Hekkert, Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, Utrecht; Giovanni Dosi, Scuola Superiore Sant’ Anna; Jan Fagerberg, University of Oslo; Dominique Foray, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne; Michael Fritsch, Friedrich Schiller University Jena; Elisa Giuliani, University of Pisa; Lars Grotewold, Stiftung Mercator; Dietmar Harhoff, Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition; Rainer Kattel, University College London; Stefan Kuhlmann, University of Twente; Michael Liecke, Fraunhofer Society; Göran Marklund, Vinnova, Sweden; Rongping Mu, Chinese Academy of Sciences; Richard Nelson, Columbia University; Frank Nullmeier, University of Bremen; Darius Ornston, University of Toronto; Dirk Pilat, Deputy Director OECD, Directorate for Science, Technology and Innovation; Jason Potts, University of Melbourne; Johan Schot, University of Sussex; Silvia Schwaag-Serger, University of Lund; Judith Sutz, Universitat de la República Uruguay; Philip Shapira, University of Manchester; Richard Sturn, University of Graz; Michaela Trippl, University of Vienna; Reinhilde Veugelers, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven Matthias Weber, Austrian Institute of Technology; Hartmut Hirsch-Kreinsen, University of Dortmund

Travel Grants

The Volkswagen Foundation offers 30 Travel Grants for PhD students or early Post docs researching on the topics addressed by the conference. The deadline for applications expired on January 13, 2019.


There are no fees for attendance but registration is essential. The number of participants is limited to 150. If you would like to attend the conference, please register by clicking on the registration link in the column on the right.
Please note that the workshops on February 22, 2019 are exclusively open for invited participants. Therefore online registration is only possible for the first two days of the conference. If you would like to participate in the workshops on Friday, please contact William Arant (


The conference language is English.

Venue and public transport

The conference is held at Herrenhausen Palace, a modern conference center in Hanover, Germany. You can reach the venue by tram: Take line 4 or 5 and get off at "Herrenhäuser Gärten".


Please note that you are responsible for booking your accommodation. As Hanover is a city that hosts many fairs, we recommend booking a hotel as soon as you register.


Please cancel your registration if you cannot attend the conference. In this case, we can offer your place to another person. Simply use the registration tool to cancel or send us an email.

Herrenhausen Conferences

The Herrenhausen Conferences, organized by the Volkswagen Foundation at Herrenhausen Palace, a modern convention center, focus on scientific topics of high social impact that are of particular relevance to the present and future. The Herrenhausen Conferences address unanswered questions and unsolved problems and their relevance for society. They provide international experts as well as junior researchers with a platform for an intense interdisciplinary dialogue on exciting new areas of research and innovative methodological approaches.