Kieron's early work was on innovation in knowledge intensive business services (KIBS) and creative services, but most of his work has been in the areas of science, technology and innovation policy. Originally an environmental biologist, he today works in a space between a number of disciplines and problem areas, drawing on what used to be known as 'innovation studies' and STS, policy sciences and (economic) geography. He also increasingly draws upon the work of (and works with) historians of science and technology, not least his Manchester colleagues in the Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine.
His more conceptual work focuses on the role of actors, agency, ideas and institutions in complex 'multi-level' policy dynamics, and on the possibilities for innovation/industrial policy stemming from the distributed, multi-scalar nature of (grand) challenges and problems (and how these turn into ‘demand’ for innovative products, processes and services). This has led to a strand of work on regional (sub-national) science and innovation policies, and on 'demand-side' innovation policies such as public procurement of innovation.
He also has a long-standing interest in research performing organizations, research infrastructures and the international dimensions of S&T, including collaboration, migration/mobility of researchers and what is increasingly called ‘science diplomacy'. He is fascinated by the tensions between the heavily 'national' nature of science policies and the nationalistic rationales offered for them and both the universalist aspirations of the scientific enterprise and the unevenly globalised reality of modern technoscience.
He has recently been studying non-university UK government S&T 'systems' under austerity and other pressures, revisiting and building on earlier, internationally comparative, work on government labs and on the ways in which expert advice is offered to, and sought by, policy-makers. These government S&T systems have now, of course, been put under fresh scrutiny following the Covid-19 pandemic. More generally he has written on trends and issues in UK science policy.
He has also worked extensively on futures/foresight studies on diverse topics. And he retains an interest in innovation in knowledge-intensive business services (KIBS) and in creative sectors, supervising PhD and post-doc projects in these areas.
Kieron's research has been funded by national governments, international organisations, UK research councils and NGOs. He has published in a range of journals including Research Policy, Research Evaluation and Science and Public Policy.