SS26: Innovation and (subjective) well-being: The need for a step-change

Name and affiliations of the session organisers

  • Chiara Ravetti (Politecnico of Torino)
  • Matteo Tubiana (Politecnico of Torino)


It is well established that innovation is a necessary and unavoidable step to support economic growth and development. For long, mainstream, as much as evolutionary economists, have been equating growth and welfare, with the implication that delving into the nexus between innovation and productivity, growth and further innovation was due and sufficient (Schubert, 2013). More recently, the interest towards alternative welfare and human development metrics has been raised (Stiglitz et al., 2018). Rediscovering the classics, such as Schumpeter, Marx and Stuart Mill, brought to acknowledge the downsides of innovation but with a limited scope regarding the topics, such as employment and wages, the nature of work, economic and geographical inequality and IPR regimes (Antonelli & Tubiana, 2023; Vivarelli, 2014). However, in the meantime, societal concern for metrics such as happiness, subjective well-being and satisfaction with various aspects of one’s life escalated. Innovation economists were not entirely deaf to such a call (Aghion et al., 2016; Dolan & Metcalfe, 2012; Engelbrecht, 2014), but it never gained momentum. Nowadays, the rising environmental sensibility and the urgency to imagine and nudge climate-friendly technological change, as highlighted by the theoretical literature (Acemoglu et al., 2012), emphasise the need to examine the nexus between innovation and areas of human development other than growth. Health, social and environmental statistics are increasingly necessary to measure societal progress and human well-being following technological changes (Bleys & Whitby, 2015; Haavard Maridal et al., 2018). 

The Special Session aims to stir a debate around such a topic and collect the most recent research experiences in the field. Economic geography is an excellent ground to start because both technological change, human development and well-being are identified and mediated by territorially-defined features such as culture and social and market institutions. Most importantly, the recent advancements in the innovation policy literature indicate that policies with a transformative ambition must entail a high level of intervention, directionality and territorial embeddedness (Robert & Yoguel, 2022; Schot & Steinmueller, 2018). It means that such (crucial) policies must target economic projects according to their welfare-enhancing potential and their grounding in territorial characteristics.  

We welcome contributors and contributions tackling the theme from a variety of economic perspectives, but we particularly welcome those with an insightful theoretical problematisation of the innovation well-being nexus’ foundations. We invite contributions around the following – and related – themes and topics: 

  • Job quality and technological change; 
  • Technological innovation and the environment; 
  • The role of norms and rules in mediating the innovation well-being nexus; 
  • Entrepreneurial eco-systems, creativity and well-being; 
  • Long-term perspectives on well-being, technological change and other socio-economic factors (e.g. institutions, social and civic capital) 


Acemoglu, D., Aghion, P., Bursztyn, L., & Hemous, D. (2012). The Environment and Directed Technical Change. American Economic Review, 102(1), 131–166. https://doi.org/10.1257/aer.102.1.131 

Aghion, P., Akcigit, U., Deaton, A., & Roulet, A. (2016). Creative Destruction and Subjective Well-Being. American Economic Review, 106(12), 3869–3897. https://doi.org/10.1257/aer.20150338 

Antonelli, C., & Tubiana, M. (2023). The rate and direction of technological change and wealth and income inequalities in advanced countries. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 191, 122508. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.techfore.2023.122508 

Bleys, B., & Whitby, A. (2015). Barriers and opportunities for alternative measures of economic welfare. Ecological Economics, 117, 162–172. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolecon.2015.06.021 

Dolan, P., & Metcalfe, R. (2012). The relationship between innovation and subjective wellbeing. Research Policy, 41(8), 1489–1498. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.respol.2012.04.001 

Engelbrecht, H.-J. (2014). A general model of the innovation—Subjective well-being nexus. Journal of Evolutionary Economics, 24(2), 377–397. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00191-014-0343-y 

Haavard Maridal, J., Palich, L., Morgan, G., Gardner, S., McKinney, J., & Bolbocean, C. (2018). Wellbeing Indices: A Comprehensive Inventory of Standards and a Review of Current Comparative Measures. Ecological Economics, 149, 1–11. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolecon.2018.02.016 

Robert, V., & Yoguel, G. (2022). Exploration of trending concepts in innovation policy. Review of Evolutionary Political Economy, 3(2), 259–292. https://doi.org/10.1007/s43253-022-00064-9 

Schot, J., & Steinmueller, W. E. (2018). Three frames for innovation policy: R&D, systems of innovation and transformative change. Research Policy, 47(9), 1554–1567. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.respol.2018.08.011 

Schubert, C. (2013). How to evaluate creative destruction: Reconstructing Schumpeter’s approach. Cambridge Journal of Economics, 37(2), 227–250. https://doi.org/10.1093/cje/bes055 

Stiglitz, J. E., Fitoussi, J.-P., & Durand, M. (2018). Beyond GDP: Measuring What Counts for Economic and Social Performance. OECD. https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264307292-en 

Vivarelli, M. (2014). Innovation, Employment and Skills in Advanced and Developing Countries: A Survey of Economic Literature. Journal of Economic Issues, 48(1), 123–154. 


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