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Kean Birch

Kean Birch

Associate Professor

Graduate Program Director, Science & Technology Studies Program
Co-Editor, Science as Culture


PhD Planning, Oxford Brooks University
MSc Technology Studies, University of Edinburgh
MA (Honours) Sociology, University of Edinburgh

Research Keywords

Innovation; Assets, assetization & rentiership; Digital & data economies; Finance & technoscience; Bio-economy & biofuels; Sustainability transitions.

Kean Birch

Contact Information

4700 Keele Street
Toronto, ON M3J1P3

416 736 2100 | @keanbirch |

Research Interests

I am particularly interested in understanding technoscientific capitalism and draw on a range of perspectives from science & technology studies, economic geography, and economic sociology to study it. More specifically, my research focuses on the restructuring and transformation of the economy & financial knowledges, technoscience & technoscientific innovation, and the relationship between markets & natural environments. Currently, I am researching how different things (e.g. knowledge, personality, loyalty, etc.) are turned into assets and how economic rents are then captured from those assets - basically, in processes of assetization and rentiership.

Research Projects

SSHRC Insight Grant (2021-2026), Co-applicant, "Ghost-management in the pharmaceutical and agricultural chemical sectors: Dynamics and implications for Canadian political economy", with PI Marc-André Gagnon (Carleton, Canada).

SSHRC Insight Development Grant (2019-2021), Principal Investigator, “The changing landscape of academic journal publishing and its impact on interdisciplinary social science fields: The case of science & technology studies (STS)”, with Wolfgang Kaltenbrunner (Leiden University, Netherlands).

SSHRC Insight Grant (2018-2023), Principal Investigator, “From entrepreneurship to rentiership: The changing dynamics of innovation in technoscientific capitalism”,

ESRC New Investigator Grant (2021-2023) Co-applicant, “Universities and unicorns: Building digital assets in the higher education industry”, with PI Janja Komljenovic (Lancaster University, UK) and Co-I Sam Sellar (Manchester Metroplitan University, UK).

SSHRC Partnership Grant (2014-2020), Co-applicant, “Adapting Canadian Work & Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change”, with PI Carla Lipsig-Mummé.

SSHRC Insight Development Grant (2013-2015), Principal Investigator, “Transitioning from a fossil(ized) to a bio-based economy: A case study of biofuels in the Canadian context”.

SSHRC CURA Grant (2010-2015), Co-applicant, “Work in a Warming World (W3): Adapting Canadian employment and work to the challenges of climate change”, with PI Carla Lipsig-Mummé.

Research Output

Birch, K. and Cochrane, D.T. (2021) Big Tech: Four Emerging Forms of Digital RentiershipScience as Culture. [Open Access].

Birch, K., Cochrane, T. and Ward, C. (2021) Data as asset? The measurement, governance, and valuation of digital personal data by Big Tech, Big Data & Society [Open Access].

Birch, K. (2020) Automated neoliberalism? The digital organization of markets in technoscientific capitalism, New Formations 100-101: 10-27. [Open Access]

Birch, K., Chiappetta, M. and Artyushina, A. (2020) The problem of innovation in technoscientific capitalism: Data rentiership and the policy implications of turning personal digital data into a private asset, Policy Studies 41(5): 468-487. [Open Access]

Birch, K. (2020) Technoscience rent: Towards a theory of rentiership for technoscientific capitalism, Science, Technology, and Human Values 45(1): 3-33. [Open Access]

Birch, K. (2018) Review essay: What is the asset condition?, European Journal of Sociology 59(3): 500-506.

Birch, K. (2017) Rethinking value in the bio-economy: Finance, assetization and the management of value, Science, Technology, and Human Values 42(3): 460-490. [Open Access]

Tim-adical Writing Collective (2017) Vulnerabilities, complicities and injustices: 'Tim-adical' actions for change in the neoliberal academy, ephemera: theory & politics in organization 17(3): 221-234. [Open Access]

Birch, K. (2017) The problem of bio-concepts: Biopolitics, bio-economy and the political economy of nothing, Cultural Studies of Science Education 12: 915-927.

Özdemir, V., Dandara, C., Hekim, N., Birch, K., Springer, S., Kunej, T. and Endreny, L. (2017) Stop the spam! Conference ethics and decoding the subtext in post-truth science: What would Denis Diderot say?, OMICS: A Journal of Integrative Biology 21(11): 658-664.

Birch, K. (2016) Socio-material systems and sustainability transitions: Integrating climate change in transport infrastructure in Ontario, Canada, Prometheus: Critical Studies in Innovation 34(3-4): 191-206.

Birch, K. (2016) Emergent policy imaginaries and fragmented policy frameworks in the Canadian bio-economy, Sustainability 8(10): 1-16. [Open Access]

Birch, K. and Siemiatycki, M. (2016) Neoliberalism and the geographies of marketization: The entangling of state and markets, Progress in Human Geography 40(2): 177-198.

Birch, K., Dove, E., Chiappetta, M. and Gursoy, U. (2016) Biobanks in oral health: Promises and implications of 'post-neoliberal' patterns of science and innovation, OMICS: A Journal of Integrative Biology 20(1): 36-41.

Birch, K. (2016) Market vs. contract? The implications of contractual theories of corporate governance to the analysis of neoliberalism, ephemera: theory & politics in organization 16(1): 107-133. [Open Access]

Birch, K. (2015) Neoliberalism: The whys and wherefores ... and future directions, Sociology Compass 9(7): 571-584.

Dove, E. et al. (2015) An appeal to the global health community for a tripartite innovation: An “Essential Diagnostics List,” “Health in All Policies,” and “See-Through 21st Century Science and Ethics”, OMICS: A Journal of Integrative Biology 19(8): 435-442.

Birch, K. and Calvert, K. (2015) Rethinking ‘drop-in’ biofuels: On the political materialities of bioenergy, Science and Technology Studies 28 (1): 52-72. [Open Access]

Birch, K., Levidow, L. and Papaioannou, T. (2014) Self-fulfilling prophecies of the European knowledge-based bio-economy: The discursive shaping of institutional and policy frameworks in the bio-pharmaceuticals sector, Journal of the Knowledge Economy 5(1): 1-18.

Birch, K. and Mykhnenko, V. (2014) Lisbonizing vs. financializing Europe? The Lisbon Agenda and the (un-)making of the European knowledge-based economy, Environment and Planning C 32(1): 108-128.

Birch, K. and Muniesa, F. (eds) (2020) Assetization: Turning Things into Assets in Technoscientific Capitalism. Cambridge MA: MIT Press. [Open Access]

Birch, K. (2019) Neoliberal Bio-economies? The Co-construction of Markets and Natures. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Birch, K. (2017) A Research Agenda for Neoliberalism. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.

Birch, K., Peacock, M., Wellen, R., Hossein, C., Scott, S. and Salazar, A. (2017) Business and Society: A Critical Introduction. London: Zed Books.

Springer, S., Birch, K. and MacLeavy, J. (eds) (2016) The Handbook of Neoliberalism. London: Routledge.

Birch, K. (2016) Innovation, Regional Development and the Life Sciences: Beyond Clusters. London: Routledge.

Birch, K. (2015) We Have Never Been Neoliberal: A Manifesto for a Doomed Youth. Winchester: Zer0 Books.

Birch, K. and Mykhnenko, V. (eds) (2010) The Rise and Fall of Neoliberalism: The Collapse of an Economic Order? London: Zed Books.

Birch, K. and Muniesa, F. (2020) Introduction: Assetization and technoscientific capitalism, in Birch, K. and Muniesa, F. (eds) Assetization: Turning Things into Assets in Technoscientific Capitalism, Cambridge MA: MIT Press.

Birch, K. and Muniesa, F. (2020) Conclusion: The future of assetization studies, in Birch, K. and Muniesa, F. (eds) Assetization: Turning Things into Assets in Technoscientific Capitalism, Cambridge MA: MIT Press.

Birch, K. (2020) From market to contract: What do corporate governance and contract law contribute to the analysis of neoliberalism, in S. Dawes and M. Lenormand (eds) Neoliberalism in Context: International and Interdisciplinary Perspectives, London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Chiappetta, M. and Birch, K. (2018) The limits to biocapital, in S. Gibbon, B. Prainsack, S. Hilgartner, S. and J. Lamoreaux (eds), The Handbook of Genomics, Health and Society. London: Routledge, pp.63-70.

Birch, K., Tyfield, D. and Chiappetta, M. (2018) From neoliberalizing research to researching neoliberalism: STS, rentiership and the emergence of commons 2.0, in D. Cahill, M. Konings, M. Cooper, and D. Primrose (eds), The SAGE Handbook of Neoliberalism. London: SAGE, pp.596-606.

Calvert, K., Birch, K. and Mabee, W. (2017) New perspectives on an ancient energy resource: Biomass, bioenergy, and emerging bio-economies, in S. Bouzarovski, M. Pasqualetti and V. Castan Broto (eds), The Routledge Research Companion to Energy Geographies. London: Routledge, pp.47-60.

Birch, K. (2017) Financing technoscience: Finance, assetization and rentiership, in D. Tyfield, R. Lave, S. Randalls and C. Thorpe (eds), The Routledge Handbook of the Political Economy of Science. London: Routledge, pp.169-181.

Springer, S., Birch, K. and MacLeavy, J. (2016) An introduction to neoliberalism, in Springer, S., Birch, K. and MacLeavy, J. (eds) The Handbook of Neoliberalism. London: Routledge, pp.1-14.

Birch, K. (2016) Financial economics and business schools: Legitimating corporate monopoly, reproducing neoliberalism?, in S. Springer, K. Birch and J. MacLeavy (eds) The Handbook of Neoliberalism. London: Routledge, pp.320-330.

Birch, K. and Wudrich, D. (2015) (Re)building sustainable infrastructure: The implications for engineers, in C. Lipsig-Mumme and S. McBride (eds) Work in a Warming World. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, pp.125-141.

Recognition & Awards

  • Visiting Scholar, Department of Organization, Copenhagen Business School
  • #1 Most Read Article, Science, Technology, & Human Values
  • Highly Cited Papers, Web of Science, Top 1% Most Cited Worldwide
  • Scientific Advisory Board, Munich Center for Technology in Society, Technical University Munich
  • #1 Most Cited Article (published last 3 years), Science, Technology, & Human Values
  • At-large Board Member, AAG Economic Geography Specialty Group
  • Visiting Scholar, Department of Business & Politics, Copenhagen Business School
  • Visiting Professor, Munich Center for Technology in Society, Technical University of Munich
  • #1 Most Read Article, Science, Technology, & Human Values


Course CodeTitle
Fall 2020, EU/GEOG3150 3.0Technological Worlds: Geographies of Digital Capitalism
Winter 2021, GS/GEOG5025 3.0Research Design and Formulation