Dr David Tyfield


Research Overview

Current Teaching

I have not been teaching while based in Guangzhou.

In January 2017, I will take over LEC322 Cultural Geography.

Research Interests

Current Research Activities

My current research develops my interests in the normative and political/power dimensions of the processes of knowledge production and their interaction with issues of global cultural political economy, especially regarding critical analysis of the emergence of a globalised "knowledge-based" economy, climate change and the rise of China. I am particularly interested currently in issues regarding innovation, inequality and advanced liberalism. This has three threads:

1) Low-Carbon Socio-Technical Systems Transition in China, especially regarding automobility and agri-food.

Relating to this work, and an interest in the politics of the discourse of 'responsible innovation', I was PI in a British Council grant (April 2014 - April 2015) on 'Responsibly Innovating Energy for Mobility: Brazil, China, UK', with colleagues at UFABC (Dr Leo de Mello), Strathclyde (Dr Brian Garvey) as well as UniCamp (Dr Andre Campos).

From December 2013, I am Co-I and lead project coordinator on the ESRC project 'Low Carbon Innovation in China - Prospects, Politics and Practice', and leading the Research Package on urban electro-mobility. This project is in collaboration with colleagues at CeMoRe, Lancaster University (Prof John Urry, Dr Dennis Zuev); STEPS Centre, Sussex University (Dr Adrian Ely, Dr Sam Geall); SOAS (Dr Frauke Urban); Tsinghua University (Dr Yu WANG); Tsinghua University Graduate School, Shenzhen (Dr Ping LI); and the CAS Centre for Agricultural Policy (Dr Yiching SONG).

2) The Cultural Political Economy of Research & Innovation - following the argument of my book (2 Volumes, Routledge, 2012), 'The Economics of Science - A Critical Realist Overview' I continue my interest in the interaction between changing practices of R&I and a changing political economy. Based on a Lancaster University Early Career Small Grant (2011-13), this has involved workshops on the 'Political Economy of Research & Innovation' in both Lancaster (October 2012) and at York University in Toronto (December 2013). Further annual workshops have been held since then, with the 3rd in the series at University of California, San Diego (March 2015) and the 4th to be held in June 2016 at the University of Liege.

3) These various themes are being brought together in a book project for Routledge, to be completed in 2015 on the inter-relation between the crises of neoliberalism and innovation.

A related argument, concerning new knowledge politics of complex systems and the need for a New Social Contract, in response to commentary about the UK election 2015, is available here.

For my blog pieces 'On Post-Capitalism', reviewing Paul Mason's book of that title, are also available: Part 1 (Overview), Part 2 (Information Capitalism), Part 3 (Kondratiev Waves).


Before starting my PhD, I studied Biochemistry and Molecular Cell Biology at Oxford and the Philosophy of Social Sciences at LSE. I also qualified as a solicitor, working in London and Brussels in various areas of corporate and commercial law, including intellectual property law and EU competition law. Bringing together these interests, I began my PhD in the Philosophy and Sociology of Science at Exeter in 2003. My research was based across two institutions: the Centre for Philosophy of the Social Sciences and the ESRC Centre for Genomics in Society (Egenis), the sister-centre of Lancaster's CESAGen. My thesis was a multidisciplinary examination of the dramatic changes to the funding of science, especially the biosciences, that have occurred since 1980 including the growth of intellectual property rights (IPRs) in scientific research, alongside the global strengthening of IPRs under the auspices of the World Trade Organisation's TRIPs agreement. By examining how TRIPs came to be signed, a theory for the (critical) realist examination of the economics of science is elaborated. This includes concerted attention to the role and importance of philosophical/ontological reflection in the development of social scientific theory. The project thus engages with work in the philosophy of science, science & technology studies, innovation economics, international relations (particularly regarding IPRs), critical theory and cultural political economy.

Additional Information

Administrative Roles

From March 2014 - and specifically from August 2014 when I relocated to Guangzhou - I am Director of the International Research & Innovation Centre for the Environment (I-RICE), a joint initiative between Lancaster Environment Centre and the CAS Guangzhou Institute of Geochemistry (GIGCAS). I-RICE is a platform for international and inter-disciplinary research on the 'grand challenges' of the environment.

From 2013, I am a Director (Communications) for the Centre for Mobilities Research, one of the four Lancaster University Research Centres.

ESRC (External organisation)
Membership of committee

  • CeMoRe - Centre for Mobilities Research
  • Centre for the Study of Environmental Change
  • Political Ecology