The Design of Transformative Research and Innovation Policy Instruments for Grand Challenges: The Policy-nesting Perspective

Susana Borrás*, Sylvia Schwaag Serger

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Several countries have created policy instruments seeking to direct research and innovation (R&I) toward addressing societal challenges. However, the design of such instruments might not always live up to their proclaimed transformative rationale. The aim of this paper is to examine empirically this matter. In a unique cross country comparison of four Grand Challenge-oriented R&I programs in the Nordic countries, we ask to what extent the design of new policy instruments for grand challenges are nested according to the rationale of transformative R&I policy. The findings show that, while all have individual transformative elements, they only exhibit weak or medium degrees of nesting. At a time of increasing transformative ambition of R&I policies, our findings make an important contribution to understanding and addressing the complexity of designing R&I transformative policy instruments.
Original languageEnglish
JournalScience and Public Policy
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)659-672
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022

Bibliographical note

Published online: 26 March 2022.


  • Innovation policy
  • Research policy
  • Transformative innovation
  • Grand challenges
  • Sustainable development goals
  • Policy instruments

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