Marie Stettler, Virginia Tech;
Matthew Wisnioski, Virginia Tech
Eric Hintz, Smithsonian Institution, Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation

Denver 2015: Policy

Can Innovators Be Made? explores the history, experience, and future directions of innovation expertise. Over the past half-century, millions of dollars have been invested in training programs to inculcate innovative skills and qualities in scientists, engineers, and inventors, but also in youth. We are interested in: how programs for cultivating innovators emerge and evolve; what challenges their advocates face; how their success is measured; and what is at stake in normative prescriptions to pursue innovative lives. Reflexively, we ask also: how STS scholars can inform innovation policy and practice; how we can (and/or ought) maintain critical distance; how we can engage broader publics; and whether STS itself generates innovation expertise. To that end, we convened a two-day workshop of intense small-group discussion that offered a rare convergence of STS scholars with design executives, policymakers, and nonprofit advocates. Our presentation shares the results of this collaboration and explains how it can be a model for critical, participatory scholarship.