The New Traffic Lights Coalition is a transformational coalition. Their success is closely linked to the three major change agendas at this time: more sustainability, more digitization, and less social imbalances. Education, research and innovation are fundamental to the success of the social processes behind them.
But how can science not only provide knowledge, but also shape transformation? How do scientific organizations change in the processes of social, economic and digital change?
These questions are rarely asked. It can be seen that knowledge is no longer only generated in academic institutions. Knowledge and solutions arise in companies, in civil society, in start-ups, or through the use of openly accessible information and data. Many different actors contribute to new knowledge and societal solutions.
This creates new places for knowledge production and knowledge exchange – spaces of collaborative transformation that lie between disciplines, institutions, groups of actors and infrastructures outside the academic world in the narrow sense. These spaces can be both digital and physical.
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Their common denominator is that new knowledge and innovations are created here by bringing together new knowledge communities. Here the current division of labor between public education and science on the one hand and private know-how and economic value creation and innovation on the other hand is redefined. This has consequences. Three examples of how educational and research institutions in such places have undergone transformation:
Combining classic learning places with new actors
Learning spaces: During the pandemic, we’ve been able to see how educational platforms, learning apps, YouTube videos, and open educational resources complement learning sites in schools and universities. New teaching and learning spaces have emerged in which educational materials are combined with the knowledge and use of multiple knowledge providers.
Teaching and learning can get even better by integrating classic learning sites and new learning destinations. However, the potential for such cooperation has not yet been explored and coordinated by state education actors and politicians.
[Soeben hat der Stifterverband die Förderinitiative “Raumlabore” als Teil seines Programmes zu “Lernarchitekturen” veröffentlicht.]
Innovation spaces: Living labs, learning spaces or British-style enterprise areas are physical and digital places where science, business and society work together on social challenges and social and technical innovations. Science collaborates with users, government and private actors, and those affected. The rapid further development of these spaces is high on the political agenda. Which forms of financing, role assignments, and governance structures that best contribute to this have not been clarified and remain largely unexplored.
Finally, data spaces describe the infrastructures and areas of collaboration in which new knowledge is generated and disseminated through the use of data from various actors. It is not just about the use of scientific data by others, but also about the data of others – such as companies and authorities – for better science. Research institutions are not yet ready for this.
Promote collaborative management rather than predatory communities
Public institutions in education and science remain central to the successful production and exchange of knowledge. They are the focus, but they need others to successfully shape changes and can use the knowledge of others in new forms of education, research and innovation. To do this, they must find their role in new knowledge societies and adapt their structures.
What follows? Collaborations with diverse partners need reliable infrastructure, skills and a cultural change aimed at working across disciplines and organizations. Funding policy should develop its logic in this direction.
This means promoting more structures and fewer projects, supporting joint collaboration and brainstorming management rather than predatory communities, and expanding collaboration professionally between traditional knowledge spaces and new knowledge providers. New actors are also needed for this: focal points, custodians or innovation agencies that realize the potential and build interfaces.
It is better for an innovation-oriented transformation policy to rethink education and science and find solutions to these challenges.
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