T890: Module introduction

Technology policy and innovation research

This is an interdisciplinary module that provides an introduction to technology and innovation policy and research in this field. The emphasis is on examining issues of interdisciplinary research embracing economic, sociological and managerial orientations. The approach is to build understanding of technology policy and technology innovation processes thereby providing a robust grounding, before exploring research methods employed to investigate technology and innovation policy. It is important to appreciate that this is not a research methods course as research techniques are not actively taught. Instead, a selection of research tools are introduced and applied to technology policy and innovation. Thus, it focuses on methods and skills best suited for technology policy and innovation rather than being comprehensive.

Technology Policy and Innovation Research may be taken as an independent free-standing module for learning about research in this area. It is also expected that it will provide a useful contribution to a research methods degree, or a research component of a professional development degree. There are five units in the module. You may choose to study all five units or just one or two. What you want from the module will determine how many of the units you study.

The reason for this flexible approach to the material is grounded in the origins of the project that supported this material being placed on OpenLearn. The Open University (OU) together with the African Centre for Technology Studies (ACTS), with funding from the British Council and the Open University, have taken a now decommissioned OU study module (T890 Technology Policy and Innovation Research) to develop an online set of self-study materials focusing on the areas of technology, innovation and research. These materials were developed because in East Africa there is growing public and private expenditure on R&D activities. This provides an opportunity for economic growth and targeted social benefits if R&D efforts are focused where they are most needed. However, in order for the best use of these funds to be made and to maximise resulting output, key skills are needed by staff working within both the private and public sectors which are in addition to the scientific and technical knowledge required. These skills relate to evaluating the capabilities and needs of research and industrial sectors i.e. understanding the innovation environment and the key drivers and obstacles to fostering innovation. They are needed by those currently working in key fields, such as health, agriculture and energy, and they are needed by those seeking work in those areas. The Open University, in collaboration with colleagues in Kenya, have therefore developed these learning materials, which will be made freely available for study by anyone, anywhere in the world. They provide an opportunity to:

  • Understand technological innovation (within the Western context and in East Africa)
  • Critically evaluate some examples of technological innovation in products and processes in the West and East Africa
  • Critically evaluate research in technology and innovation.

Learning outcomes