Department of
Sociology

Center for
Innovation

History of the Center for Innovation

The Center for Innovation was founded in 1982 when the Division of Engineering Sciences approached Jerald Hage to return to the study of organizational innovation. With a new assistant professor, Frank Hull, and with the cooperation of the industrial psychology program and the management program in the R. H. Smith School of Business, the Center was founded to study innovation in industrial organizations, primarily in the US but also in Japan. One of the main foci of interest was the problem of the adoption of flexible manufacturing. For the next eight years, the Center produced several dissertations, a number of papers and a book from a conference it held on the Futures of Organizations.

Starting in 1990 and for the next year eight years, the focus shifted to the study of the diversity of human capital and its consequences for economic growth. This line of research was at the nation state level and exploited a large data set that had been developed by Hage during the 1970s and 1980s on Britain, France, Germany and Italy during the period of 1870 through 1970. This research was conducted jointly with Maurice Garnier at Indiana University. The research program was funded by several grants from the National Science Foundation and the French government.Again, a number of papers were published, dissertations defined and a major report on technical education was written for the Department of Education in the US. A technique for measuring the social efficiency of the education system by measuring the costs and benefits of investing in technical and scientific education was developed for the Ministry of Planning in France.

At the conclusion of this eight year period and these macro studies, the Center again shifted focus back to research on organizational innovation with several important differences. First, an emphasis was placed on scientific innovation in a major comparative study of radical innovation in biomedicine in France, Germany, Britain, and the US, jointly conducted with J. Rogers Hollingsworth at the University of Wisconsin. Second, the approach was multi-level, that is micro or the laboratory, meso or the research organization, and macro or the institutional arrangements of science. This research program was funded by the Swedish government and the National Science Foundation. Again, several papers were published by Jerald Hage and Jonathon Mote on the Institut Pasteur.

Since the beginning of the millennium, the Center has built upon these interests by holding conferences to develop a book on new research agendas in innovation, science, knowledge trajectories, and institutional change and their interrelationships, supported by a grant from the Department of Energy.The Center was actively engaged for eight years in helping Gretchen Jordan from Sandia National Laboratories, employ her research environment survey and developing evaluation tools and techniques for the evaluation of science and technology under a grant from Basic Energy Sciences of the Department of Energy. With this support, the Center for Innovation was able to add Jonathan Mote, an expert in network analysis, who stayed with the Center for five years before moving to the University of Southern Illinois business school. For the period of 2004-2013, first with Jonathan Mote and second with Jeffrey Lucas, the Center conductied applied research with the same objective in the STAR division of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. Among other projects, the Center for Innovation developed new metrics for evaluating the contributions of research at STAR.

With the help of both Gretchen Jordan and Jonathan Mote, the Center received two National Science Foundation grants in a new program to build the science of science and innovation policy. The research demonstrated that the size of a public research organization has adverse effects on the amount of research time, the radicalness of the innovation processes, the quality of management, and the extent of knowledge exchanges.

The addition of Wilbur Hadden has allowed the Center to move beyond its focus on public and private research, business organizations, and economic growth to a new sector of society, namely the health care system. With a grant from the National Science Foundation, the Center developed new metrics for evaluating the outcomes of three years of research progress in four health problem areas: breast cancer, colorectal cancer, melanoma, and Alzheimer’s disease. Relative to the amount of funding in the previous three years, the results showed greater potential gain because of reductions in mortality, morbidity, and health care costs as well as side effects.

Since the publication of Restoring the Innovative Edge: Driving the evolution of science and technology, the Center has been giving policy talks about the need for a new model for innovation given the evolution to science and technology. Also, it has been presenting panels at the American Evaluation Association on its new ideas in the evaluation of science and technology. Buried in this new policy model is a new theory of social change. This theory is being presented at various universities and international conferences for critique.

Updated 14 December 2016