Visiting Scholar, Department of Business and Politics, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark
Visiting Professor, Munich Center for Technology in Society, Technical University of Munich
Senior Associate, Innovation Policy Lab, Munk School of Global Affairs, Toronto University, Canada
Advisory Board, Changing Political Economy of Research and Innovation annual workshop
Member, Adapting Canadian Workplaces (ACW), York University, Canada
Member, Work in a Warming World (W3), York University, Canada
Future Research Agenda
- Financing in High-tech Sectors (e.g. life sciences): I am interested in economic expertise, assumptions, and knowledges as well technoscience itself. As such, I study the financing of science and innovation in order to understand how financial logics (e.g. capitalization), financial knowledges (e.g. accounting), and financial practices (e.g. corporate governance) come to configure the organization and governance of high-tech sectors (like the life sciences).
- Rentiership and the Dark Side of Innovation: I am increasingly interested in questions about the social benefits and costs of particular forms of financing, especially financing that is 'speculative' rather than 'productive'. I am exploring these issues through a theory of rentiership – or, the dark side of innovation and entrepreneurship. Rentiership involves the extraction of value from social activities and relations, rather than the creation of new products and services, and is a process I see as endemic to modern capitalism (or 'neoliberalism').
- Emerging Bio-economies: I have a long-standing interest in the emerging bio-economy, which can be defined as a societal pathway to a low-carbon future underpinned by the use of biological energy, materials, chemicals, and processes (cf. fossil fuels). I want to extend my research on biofuels to other areas of the bio-economy across North America, in order to explore the configuration of bio-economy value chains. As such, I am interested in how biological materials (e.g. wood, sugar, etc.) are framed and reframed as natural resources through particular technoscientific knowledges and practices (e.g. synthetic biology); how they are incorporated into global value chains; and the implications of these processes to a range of social actors from different parts of the world.
- Environmental and Sustainable Innovation: I am increasingly interested in how new forms of environmental technoscience (e.g. advanced biofuels) are being configured by neoliberalism and, in turn, how they come to configure neoliberalism. My current focus is on advanced biofuels, although I am interested in other disruptive eco-innovations as well. I want to understand how dominant and prevailing neoliberal institutions, infrastructures, and knowledges are shaping the priorities behind new environmental and sustainable technoscience, and the limitations that ‘nature’ places on the pursuit of these priorities.
- Biofuels, Biotechnology & Renewable Energy: funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council and focused on innovation in renewable energy generation from ‘advanced’ or ‘second generation’ biofuels.
- Sustainable Infrastructure & the Engineering Profession: funded by Work in Warming World program, I looked at innovation in transport infrastructure that respond to needs for climate change adaptation and mitigation. I was interested in the implications of this sort of innovation for the engineering profession (e.g. codes, training, education, licensing, etc.).
- Public-private Partnerships & the New Market-State: I am also interested in the marketization of public services and public infrastructure developments.
- Rethinking Neoliberalism: I have become interested in critically unpacking the concept of neoliberal. This has arisen from a dissatisfaction with current analytical accounts of neoliberalism that characterize it as a market-centred ideology, project or epistemic order.
- The European Bio-economy: I have been interested in the emergence of a ‘bio-economy’ as a policy framework and as a theoretical concept (e.g. biovalue, biocapital).
- Innovation and Knowledge-based Commodity Chains in the Life Sciences: longstanding interest in the innovation and spatial dynamics of the life sciences. I received funding from the ESRC to study the particular forms of innovation and economic governance along ‘knowledge-based commodity chains’ and how this relates to regional development and upgrading.
- Varieties of Neoliberalism: I have been interested in neoliberal restructuring, especially in terms of the variety and diversity of supra-national, national and regional strategies; this was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).
- Birch, K. (2015) Socio-material systems and sustainability transitions: Integrating climate change into transport infrastructure in Ontario, Canada, Work in a Warming World (W3) Working Paper #2015-01.
- Birch, K. (2013) Where is value in the bio-economy?
- Birch, K (2011) Have We Ever Been Neoliberal?
- Birch, K. (2010) On Failure: Rethinking evolutionary change in economic geography
- Birch, K. and Connolly, M. (2010) Neoliberalising climate change: Free market think tanks and the representation of climate change science and policy in the UK