Research on innovation in the public sector has been receiving increased attention in recent years, as it is becoming increasingly crucial for the public sector to think in new ways. The initiative to establish a national research network arose at the Public Sector Innovation Conference (PUBSIC) in Lillehammer, November 2017. Following an invitation from the Norwegian Research Council, Inland University College took the initiative in March 2018 to host an open meeting for researchers interested in innovation in the public sector. About 25 researchers from various universities, colleges and research institutes participated and made the decided to form a network. A working group was established and a second gathering took place in Stavanger in October 2018. Here the priorities for the network were articulated, and this has lain the foundation for further work.
INNOFF as a network aims to facilitate a common arena, regular network meetings, special issues in international and national journals, collaboration on sessions at conferences, collaboration on PhD courses, project collaboration, as well as make the network accessible and visible through an independent website. Thematically, theoretically and methodically the network represents the wide scope of innovation research directed at the public sector.
The network is currently run by a working group responsible for initiating activities within the network. The working group consists of representatives from research institutions in various regions of Norway. In 2018/2019, the working group received administrative resources via the University of Stavanger. The Norwegian Research Council supports the initiative and participates with an observer in the working group.
Ann Karin Tennås Holmen (head of the network) has a Ph.D. from the University of Bergen (Adm.org) and is an Associate Professor in Political Science at the University of Stavanger (UiS). Her field of research is governance across geographical and institutional boundaries, including democratic governance, organization and leadership. Her interests further include regional innovation, management and administration of and in networks, co-management, strategy and policy for innovation at national, regional and local levels as well as municipal innovation processes. She has developed, led and participated in a number of research projects on co-management, leadership and innovation in the public sector. In 2019, Holmen launched the book «Innovation meets the municipality» together with a number of contributors.
Catharina Bjørkquist has a Ph.D. from Karlstad University and is an Associate Professor in Political Science at Østfold University College (HiØ), Department of Health and Welfare. Her research interests include public reforms and coordination of health and welfare services in general. She has worked with organizing services for patients, management, organization and leadership in hospitals, team organization and local innovation processes, including digitization and collaboration, development of services and user engagement.
Oddbjørn Bukve is a Professor of Organization and Management at the University College of Western Norway (HVL). He has a masters in public administration and organizational science and a Ph.D. from the University of Bergen. He leads the research group Collaboration, Innovation and Governance in the Public Sector at the University College in Sogn & Fjordane. He is a member of the working group for the Ph.D. study Responsible Innovation at the University College in Western Norway. His main research interests are public policy, reforms and organization as tools for change and renewal. His publications include «Designing Social Science Research» (2019), «Local Development Policies in Small Countries» (2016, with Sona Capkova) and «Cooperation and Quality in Health Organizations» (2014, with Gro Kvåle).
Ragnhild Holmen Waldahl is a political scientist and research leader for welfare at the research institute Nordlandsforskning. Her main research field is welfare innovation, organization of and cooperation between welfare services, and welfare technology. In recent years, she has played a central role in several projects that have focused on youth, dropouts and social exclusion. She has considerable experience in developing and implementing innovation and research projects in close collaboration with public actors.
Rannveig Røste has a PhD in innovation and entrepreneurship from the Norwegian Business School and is an Associate Professor at Østfold University College. She has a background as a political scientist from the University of Oslo and as a researcher at Nordic Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research and Education. Røste has worked with the topic of innovation in public sector since early 2000. She is especially oriented at innovation as a concept, the importance of policy and politics, and innovation as a process that evolves over time in complex systems of innovations.
Roger Lian has an MSc from NTNU (geography) and is the CEO of NTNU Samfunnsforskning AS. He is an experienced researcher and has worked on issues related to social planning and health promotion in local community work, including cooperation between the voluntary and public sector. For many years, he has worked on the development of instruments and stronger interaction between the research community and the municipal sector, and participated, among other things, in the development of the program HelseOmsorg21. He was deeply involved in the development and establishment of the Center for Care Research and the National Innovation School for the municipal sector. He has led several networks and collaborative initiatives in order to strengthen capacity for innovation in the public sector, including the program Arena Ny Omsorg – national network for knowledge sharing within the health and care field.
Ulla Higdem has a Ph.D. from the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU) and is an Associate Professor at the Business School within the Faculty of Economics and Social Sciences at the Inland University College (HINN). Her research is related to innovation, policy development, co-management, management networks and development work in complex actor situations with the public sector. Central research interests include planning and development work across geographical and institutional boundaries and she has participated in the evaluation work on the Planning and Building Act (EVAPLAN, 2018). Among others, she has written about collaborative innovation in the book «Innovation meetings municipality» (2019). Higdem also has broad experience in planning and development work, teaching at masters level in the MPA specialization Innovation in the Public Sector and supervision in the PhD area innovation in the public sector.
NFR Observer: Erna Wenche Østrem is Cand. Political Science (societal economics) and Special Adviser in the Norwegian Research Council (NFR), where she leads the team for innovation in the public sector. She has previously worked with strategy and economics at both the municipal and regional levels, and in the college sector. She has, among other things, led the work of developing the Norwegian Research Council’s strategy for innovation in the public sector and programs for innovation in the municipality and state. She recently joined the Norwegian Research Council’s Brussels office, and is involved in Nordic and European cooperation in digitization in the public sector and citizen engagement in research and innovation.
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