On this, his second visit to Colombia, Edward Steinmueller, researcher at the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) of the University of Sussex, was invited to the School of Management by Professor Clemente Forero to strengthen ties with the School, give lectures and be a jury member for Guillermo Ruiz dissertation defence. Below, he shares insights about his work on innovation policy, and how this is related to humanity’s survival, inclusion issues and democracy; the point is to guarantee that all members of society have a voice when making this policy. He shares his perceptions of Colombia, the peace process, and what most impressed him about Colombia and the School.
Ph.D. student Guillermo Ruiz tells us about the importance of Professor Steinmueller’s visit to the School of Management.
How do you know professor Steinmueller? What are the main research links?
Clemente Forero met Professor Steinmueller more than ten years ago. He is one of the most respected authors in innovation and new technology studies. He has been the editor of Research Policy, the leading journal in the field. His recent research deals with the industrial economics of information and technology and with the economic and social policy issues of Information Society. He has also contributed to research in science policy and in the economics of basic research.
What is the main purpose of professor Steinmueller’s visit?
The main purpose of his visit is to strength ties with researchers in the School of Management working in fields related to innovation and innovation policy.
Why is this visit important for our School?
Professor Steinmueller has been Professorial fellow at SPRU since 1997, and an advisor to several Directorates of the European Commission, the National Academies of Science and Engineering (US), and the Department of Trade and Industry and Office of Telecommunications (UK). His visit is an opportunity for other professors at the School to forge links with him. Also, Ph.D. students may learn from his experience in research and editorial boards.
What are the expectations in terms of his/ her research contribution to the Public Management area?
Edward Steinmueller is Professor of Information and Communications Technology Policy within the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at the School of Business, Management and Economics at the University of Sussex. He holds a Ph.D. in Economics (1987) from Stanford University and a B.A. in Economics from the University of Oregon (1974). From 1997 to 2001 he was a Professorial Fellow at the Science and Technology Policy Research Unit.
His research interests include (i) industrial economics of information; (ii) communication technology industries including integrated circuits, computers, telecommunications, software; and (iii) economic and social policy issues of the information society. He is the Director and co-founder of the Information, Networks and Knowledge Research Centre (INK) at the University of Sussex.
Currently, professor Steinmueller is Editor of Research Policy, Associate Editor of Telecommunications Policy and member of the Editorial Board of Communications and Strategies. He is also a journal referee of the Academy of Management Journal, American Economic Review, Journal of Economic Literature, among others.
Interview with Professor Edward Steinmueller
- When and why did you decide to pursue an academic career?
Well, I grew up in a university culture and was soon able to see that it was an attractive way of life. It was helpful to be good at school, but it was somewhat difficult in that I had an interest in so many different things, so it took some time for me to decide what I would pursue. It was a time in history when many things were up in the air, the 1970s. I became particularly interested in economic development, poverty, and the not so productive things that the US was doing in the world, and I began to think that maybe there were other approaches to relieving poverty in the world, and all this was tied back to material welfare and how it is generated and distributed.
- What are the most satisfying aspects of being a scholar?
At one time, I thought it would be research, but then I found that I really enjoyed teaching. Once I left America, I had been involved as a researcher at Stanford, which is why I stayed there for 20 years. I then won a professorship and I went from various peripatetic roles as an instructor to being a professor in one-step. But I was a research professor and no sooner had I won this position that I found myself starting a PhD program at Maastricht, and that program has continued on.
- What other research areas would you like to develop in the future?
I visited Colombia for the first time last year in connection with an activity called the Transformative Innovation Policy Consortium, which Colombia and 4 other countries joined in the first year. Its aim is to discover how innovation policy can address social needs and challenges such as the Sustainable Development Goals. More broadly, much of the existing technology we are using will kill us unless we figure out better ways to organize how we produce and use energy, how we produce other things that concentrate wealth and reduce opportunities for people, and all these things are related to innovation policy. So how do we generate better innovation policy in the future? I am also involved with complementary project to try to understand how major shifts in technology can be related to one another.
- Please tell us a special anecdote from your academic life.
We often find that students are rather impatient about our tendency as scholars to cite other scholars, names, contributions. So students are essentially forced to learn a lot of names and how names relate to ideas. At one time, I had a student who said, Why do we have to learn all these names? I came here to learn how to manage things, so you need to tell me how to manage things. And I said, Well, actually what you need to learn, how to do, is to think critically about problems in order to come up with solutions because there is never a fixed recipe to solve any problems that is really interesting.
- How does your work contribute to the society as a whole?
It is about survival, inclusion and democracy as well. One of the things we think is important is that we are running a lot of innovation science policies based on technocratic model whereby experts are making choices for everyone, and people should have a voice. How do we achieve that?
- How would you describe your teaching philosophy?
- Teaching is partially about causing people to reflect on what they believe: what do you believe? How did you come to have those beliefs? Have you examined them? All of us are somewhat shaped by our own direct experiences. One of the roles of the social sciences is to look at things that involve people so that we can come to a better understanding of society as a whole. Another aspect is interaction; interacting with people and determining their motives, their interests, what their purpose in life is or what they would like to do with their life is another thing that is very motivating in teaching.
- What do you learn most from the interaction with your students?
One of the features of teaching in a modern university, particularly in the UK, is that your students are very international. I am very fortunate that in my life experience, because I grew up in a university, I went to schools in which, primary school for example, there was a large number of students’ children, and so I was always encountering people from other countries. So that life experience has continued and I have learned a lot about other places in the world, even though professionally I haven’t visited many places because my particular interest, my early interest, was in Information and Communication Technologies and the centre of those activities was in America and East Asia. So I visited those two places but not Latin America, Africa, Central Asia, South Asia. Yet, from all of those places, I have interaction with the students from the time I was in primary school to the present.
- What would you highlight from your visit to Universidad de los Andes School of Management?
My impression is that you have passed that phase of being a young management school and now have reached the position where you are really visible in the region and in the world. With that come many challenges of the competition for faculty members, for students, and for even greater visibility. It is clear that people are ambitious and motivated and I am very impressed by the degree of integration.
There is more fluidity here between different pursuits and because you have grown to be 80 faculty members, so you also have to manage the diversity so there are some uncomfortable parts to being bigger as well.