Resilience in the Face of Sustainability Crises: Is Innovation the Problem or the Solution?

Free Public Lecture

Resilience in the Face of Sustainability Crises: Is Innovation the Problem or the Solution?

MSSI Oration with Professor Lars Coenen

Innovation has improved levels of wellbeing across Australia and profoundly transformed its industrial landscape. Yet despite becoming increasingly knowledge-intensive, our innovation-fuelled economies are facing some intractable sustainability challenges. Social polarisation deepens even in cities and regions that rank high on liveability and innovation indices. We struggle to stay within a safe climate envelope despite significant technological advances. Daily we are confronted with dystopian visions of runaway technologies.

Has innovation turned into a solution looking for a problem? Or have we lost track of the purpose of innovation? How can we harness the potential of innovation as concept and practice to enhance its social value and put it to purpose in building resilience in the face of multiple sustainability crises?

Drawing on examples from (Resilient) Melbourne and across the world, the oration argues for and illustrates a more capacious understanding of innovation that lifts the gaze beyond high-tech start-ups and commercialising research towards a process of collective deliberation, contested experimentation and messy problem-solving across all sectors in society, especially community. Successful innovation can be at once creative and heroic, and also mundane and conflictual.

The oration concludes by exploring what this means for research, policy and notably, the way we think of innovation in relation to urban and regional development.

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