Cultivating the Innovative Region
Participatory Innovation, Citizens and Statehood in Wallonia
Keywords:participatory innovation, innovation policies, public participation in science, technology and innovation, regional innovation, Wallonia
Innovation is becoming more and more participatory. Discourses insisting on the desirable involvement of users and lay citizens in innovation-making processes are burgeoning around the globe. This burgeoning is often fostered and supported by innovation scholars whose studies on, and calls for more open and participatory forms of innovation have recently gained traction among public authorities. However, as the appropriation of such scholarly work by public authorities is a recent phenomenon, much remains to be discovered about the interactions between participatory innovation models and the political contexts in which they emerge. In particular, this article offers an analysis of the relationships and allocation of power between the State and citizens that develop through participatory innovation policies. By developing a context-sensitive approach to study the case of Wallonia, one of the federal regions of Belgium, I analyze participatory innovation as a particular mode of government through which public authorities (re)invent themselves and the society they govern. I show that what matters for Walloon public authorities when they promote and set up participatory innovation practices is not only the results of such practices in terms of innovation products, but also and perhaps more importantly the shaping of entrepreneurial citizens as well as the Region that is expected to develop accordingly. Ultimately, this approach allows for critical scrutiny of the politics of innovation and the democratic order it contributes to produce in an economically peripheral region looking for quickly (re)developing itself in order to exist in the global economic competition.