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'Grand Challenges' concept: a return of the 'big ideas' in science, technology and innovation policy?

Published Online:pp 5-21

In recent years, the 'Grand Challenges' idea has become widely used in research and innovation policy around the world, shifting the focus to tackling global societal problems in areas such as energy, health and environment through boundary spanning collaborations. This paper traces origins and global diffusion of the concept and analyses it in the context of long-term development of science, technology and innovation policy. It argues that the content and organisational dimensions of the Grand Challenges concept represent both continuity and change in research and innovation policy: although the concept draws on traditional and more recent ideas about the social function of science and collaborations among heterogeneous actors, its focus on tackling large-scale global societal problems is novel. Scientific leaders and the private sector have played an important role in the emergence and diffusion of the concept, which was afterwards taken up by international organisations, national governments and research organisations.


EU research policy, EU innovation policy, framing, global diffusion, grand challenges, policy ideas, policy initiatives, science technology innovation, STI policy, long-term development, European Union