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Synthetic biology, water industry and the performance of an innovation barrier

Molyneux-Hodgson, S. and Balmer, A. S

Science Policy. 2014;41(4):507-519.

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This paper analyses the performance of a research programme that sought to address issues of innovation in the water industry through the application of synthetic biology approaches to water problems. We use this analysis to re-imagine the problem of innovation in the UK water sector. Using textual, observational and interview data, we examine how a series of discourses have, over time, become firmly connected in the context of water innovation. Discourses include: conceptualisation of public actors as consumers who are ignorant of the complexities of water and its true value; and the primacy of market-based mechanisms to produce innovation. We show how these discourses shaped the expectations of academic and industry actors as they sought to use synthetic biology as a solution to industrial problems. Expecting innovation barriers of a certain form, these actors helped to construct the very thing they sought to dismantle.

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Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY)
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Immediate release
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30th March, 2015
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Created by:
Balmer, Andrew
8th October, 2012, 14:21:01
Last modified by:
Balmer, Andrew
Last modified:
2nd August, 2015, 21:29:47

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