GIST Seminar

The 78th GIST Seminar "Overcoming Barriers to Technological Innovation in Established Economic Sectors"

The 78th GIST Seminar
Lecturer Prof. Charles Weiss, Retired Distinguished Professor, Science, Technology and International Affairs, School of Foreign Service, Retired Distinguished Professor, Georgetown University, Visiting Scholar at AAAS Center for Science Diplomacy
Time July 27, 2016 5:45pm - 7:30pm (Doors open at 5:25pm)
Place National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, 1st Floor, Room 1AB (ACCESS)
Sponsorship GRIPS Innovation, Science and Technology Policy Program (GIST)
Language English
Participation fees Free (Pre-registraion required)
Document Presentation Slides


Entrenched, well-defended "legacy sectors" that make up more than half of the U.S. economy resist technological innovations that could stimulate growth, create employment, improve security and benefit public health and the environment, but would upset prevailing business models. These sectors include fossil fuels, industrial agriculture, inter-state transmission of electricity, health delivery, transport, buildings, higher education and manufacturing.

Vested interests in these and other legacy sectors resist disruptive innovation by taking advantage of market imperfections and economic, political, social, legal and cultural paradigms, which together create incentives for producers that may be inconsistent with broader social goals. The obstacles to innovation in each individual legacy sector are well known to specialists but their common features have not received sufficient attention from students and practitioners of overall innovation policy.

Encouraging innovation in legacy sectors requires an orchestrator of change, backed and protected by high-level enablers, who will not only support research and development, but will also stimulate the creation of a thinking community, identify and address gaps in the innovation system, and develop programs, policies, incentives and regulatory regimes to overcome obstacles to innovation anywhere from research to market launch. The conception and implementation of the new network of U.S. manufacturing institutes and of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), illustrate this process.

Extending these ideas to the national level, we propose the concept of the "national context of innovation" and argue that it is at least as important in encouraging and determining the direction of innovation as is the more familiar national innovation system of research and development laboratories, universities, innovative firms and laws for the protection of intellectual property. The national innovation context has economic, political, legal and cultural dimensions - as, for example, the business climate, demography, attitudes toward novelty, risk and failure, the flexibility of markets for labor and capital and the presence or absence of regulatory capture in key industries.

*Slight modifications were added to the title and the overview on July 13.

Simplified personal history

Dr. Charles Weiss was Distinguished Professor of Science, Technology and International Affairs (STIA) at the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University from 1997 until his retirement in 2014. He served as the Director of STIA from 1997 to 2006. He is now a Visiting Scholar with the Center for Science Diplomacy of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Dr. Weiss was the first Science and Technology Advisor to the World Bank, serving in this capacity from 1971-1985. He promoted and oversaw a substantial expansion of the Bank’s support to the scientific and technological dimension of economic development. Before coming to Georgetown, he taught courses at the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University, the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, the University of Pennsylvania and the Foreign Service Institute of the U.S. Department of State.

Dr. Weiss has just published Technological Innovation in Legacy Sectors (Oxford University Press, 2015), with co-author William Bonvillian. The two previously co-authored Structuring an Energy Technology Revolution (MIT Press, 2009). Weiss has published papers and lectured on a broad range of topics, including innovation policy, scientific uncertainty, environmental policy, privacy, bioprospecting, the Productivity Program of the Marshall Plan, and science and technology in developing and emerging economies. He has lectured at numerous universities, including Harvard, the University of California (Berkeley), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Duke University, the University of Maryland, Jawaharlal Nehru University (Delhi), Makerere University (Uganda), the Institute of Energy Economics, Japan, and Tohoku University.

Dr. Weiss has an AB in chemistry and physics, summa cum laude, and a PhD in chemical physics and biochemistry, both from Harvard University. He is a Fellow of the AAAS and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. At AAAS, he is working on his next book, an overview of science, technology and international affairs.


Please fill in Registration Form by 10am on July 27.
If you cannot open the form, please send email to GIST Secretariat, Registration email must include: 1) your name*, 2) institution*, 3) job title, and 4) contact information (email address or phone number)*.
*Required items
The application will be closed as soon as the number of applicants reaches the capacity.

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