Working Paper

Severing the Innovation-Inequality Link: Distribution Sensitive Science, Technology and Innovation Policies in Developed Nations

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Innovation is essential to economic growth. However, it appears that the ways in which we pursue innovation policies have aggravated inequality. Inequality is an increasingly contentious political issue in both wealthy and emerging economies.

Yet, it is becoming clear that use of traditional state instruments to alleviate inequality by redistributive means, is no longer sufficient. For those reasons, in this paper we consider other state instruments that are rarely associated with distributive goals. Specifically, we inquire whether we can successfully devise and employ Distributive-Sensitive Science and Technology and Innovation Policies focused on disadvantaged groups of users and consumers of technology. Following an exploratory theoretical approach, the paper first develop four types of such programs, and then utilize a comparative approach to analyze existing programs that fit into these categories, first, in Israel, and then, in the United State, Germany, and Sweden. We conclude by arguing that although these programs are currently driven primarily by economic efficiency concerns and not by distributive ones, they show the promise of our approach of utilizing innovation policy to reach social policy goals.