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Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

POSTPONED: Emergence and Extinction: innovation, progress and change Seminar

15th January 2015, 18:00 to 19:00, Birley Room, Hatfield College, Professor Petra Ahrweiler (European Academy of Technology and Innovation Assessment)


Innovation emerges in all walks of life: in business, new products replace old ones; in art, new styles come into fashion; in science, new technologies supersede outmoded ones; in the environment, new species evolve and appear. Different academic disciplines have sought to test these or related propositions about the emergence and extinction of innovation. For some scholars, the emergence of innovation is explained through the diffusion process in which new ideas/products become popular, reach their tipping point and then decline. For others, their studies draw on models of evolution used in biological studies to map out the probability of reproductive selection amongst the population in evolutionary games. 

This interdisciplinary programme will explore different theoretical and empirical approaches to understanding how a subject emerges and subsequently declines. The aim is to look in more detail at how these processes unfold in different contexts: 

  • Understanding the emergence of diffusion of innovation and how innovative ideas propagate in space in a range of areas ranging from management, banking history, research innovation, linguistic changes to energy technologies;
  • The destructive potential of emergences (i.e. does the emergence of something invariably result in the destruction of something else);
  • The role of zeitgeist, or the spirit of the time, in the adoption of new products and ideas;
  • The threshold for mass adoption, and
  • The extent to which all emergences are necessarily temporary. 

The next event in this programme will take place on:

15 January 2015, Birley Room, Hatfield College, 6.00pm

Modelling the emergence of innovation 

This presentation will outline a coherent framework for modelling innovation in complex social systems. Complexity perspectives are highly relevant to innovation, because innovation is about emergence of the new not only about diffusion of the already existing. After a short introduction to innovation as a topic for research, the currently widely applied use of computational network analysis to investigate collaborative innovation arrangements will be discussed focusing on structural properties of these configurations. To include procedural and dynamic features of innovation such as emergence of new knowledge, technologies, new products, processes and organisational solutions, a systemic perspective and agent-based modelling will be introduced. Examples are given from current research projects on innovation modeling. 

Dr. Petra Ahrweiler is the Director of the EA European Academy of Technology and Innovation Assessment, a joint research centre of the Federal German state of Rhineland-Palatinate and the German Aerospace Center. Ahrweiler also holds a professorship for Technology and Innovation Assessment at the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz in Germany. Her main research interests are innovation networks in knowledge-intensive sectors such as ICT and biotech, issues of science in society, responsible research and innovation, and policy modelling for complex social systems using methods such as social network analysis and agent-based simulation.

Previously, Ahrweiler was Professor of Innovation and Technology Management at the Michael Smurfit School of Business of University College Dublin and Director of UCD’s Innovation Research Unit IRU. Furthermore, she belonged to the external faculty of the Engineering Systems Division at the Massachussetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Ahrweiler studied law, sociology, journalism and political science at the University of Hamburg finishing with her PhD in the area of science and technology studies at the Free University Berlin. Since her habilitation thesis at the University of Bielefeld on social simulation of innovation processes she worked as a Heisenberg Fellow of the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG) and as a Professor of Economic Sociology at the University of Hamburg, where she built up a new research programme on innovation research. She has long experience as principal investigator and co-ordinator of international projects on innovation networks, for example the EU-projects on “Simulating Self-Organizing Innovation Networks (SEIN)”, “Network Models, Governance, and R&D Collaboration Networks” (NEMO) or “Governance of responsible Research and Innovation” (GREAT). Ahrweiler holds various research awards and is member of a number of advisory boards in both governmental and academic organisations.

Contact enquiries.ias@durham.ac.uk for more information about this event.