Innovation creates unexpected consequences, marked by technical and social uncertainties. Problematic situations at the interface between various organizations and their stakeholders proliferate. The programme provides future engineers with theoretical and practical tools for understanding these situations, based on a social science approach.
The objective of the minor in Public Affairs and Innovation is to train engineering students to understand and manage the political dimensions of innovation. These political dimensions encompass a range of issues such as: the social or regulatory aspects of innovation processes, the regulation of technologies and markets, public/private relations, the controversies innovation raises and the effects it has on society, the role of scientific expertise and consultation procedures in public decision-making.
Public affairs have become part of the curricula of major universities in France and abroad. Our program in Public Affairs and Innovation builds on the specific competences of Ecole des Mines de Paris by offering training in public affairs focused on scientific and technical problems. It draws in particular on research developed at the Center for the Sociology of Innovation which has contributed to the development of theoretical and methodological tools for the study of the political dimensions of scientific, technical and economic activities.
Specific learning outcomes
The training is based on social science courses allowing students to acquire skills in STS (science and technology studies), economic sociology and political science. The courses are linked to fieldwork that provides students with methodological skills related to social science research: formulation of a research question based on empirical observation, identification of relevant literature, collection of empirical material, formalization of results. The theoretical and methodological skills acquired during the training period are put into practice in the internship-based final report that students are expected to produce. At the end of the program, students should be able to analyze the political dimensions of the scientific, technical and economic activities they will carry out in the future.
Contents & activities
The training has a strong theoretical and practical basis. It includes four components:
1) Social science courses, taught by the professors responsible for the minor and organized into three modules: science, technology and politics; markets and the government of the economy; public policy and business. The courses aim at the acquisition of theoretical and methodological tools. Each course is dedicated to a theme (e.g., quantification; expertise; transformations of the state) and includes two components: a presentation of the main theoretical frameworks and key notions that allow the theme to be addressed; a discussion workshop based on the reading of social science articles.
2) Modules supervised by external lecturers, on specific themes (e.g. carbon markets; the European budget). Each module includes a general introduction and a case study for which the students work in groups and prepare a report that takes the form of a presentation or a situational exercise.
3) Collective fieldwork, on different subjects defined each year by the professors in charge of the minor (examples: experimentation in public action; the valorization of nature). The fieldwork takes place throughout the training period and aims to train students in social science research (literature review and identification of a research question, methodological design, conduct of interviews and constitution of a documentary corpus, analysis of the empirical material collected and formalization of the results in writing and/or orally). It also allows the application of the theoretical and methodological tools acquired.
4) Preparation for the internship-based final report. During the training period, students begin researching their final year internship and are invited to reflect on the subject of their report. The topics are chosen by the students, in collaboration with the teaching team and upon approval by the professors responsible for the program. The internship should allow to address a public affairs issue through an analysis of the political dimensions of the activities carried out by the student during the internship. The results take the form of a report or a shorter text designed to be disseminated, written under the supervision of a researcher from the Center for the Sociology of Innovation.
Students’ internship-based final reports
Each year in September, students in the program in Public Affairs and Innovation present their final reports. Supervised by researchers from the Center for the Sociology of Innovation, students use the operational or research-oriented work they carried out during their internships to analyze a public affairs issue related to the political dimensions of technical activities.
Presentations of the reports prepared by students in the program in Public Affairs and Innovation since 2017:
For further details about the minor in “Public Affairs and Innovation” please contact the professors responsible for the programme.