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Sustainable Innovation and Social Change


Admission requirements

This course is obligatory for students of the master’s programme Industrial Ecology.
No prior knowledge required.


The course consists of three parts:
(1) A theoretical part consisting of lectures, readings and discussions.
(2) A group assignment focusing on a self-chosen sustainable or social innovation. In the group assignment (i) a brief technology assessment & stakeholder analysis is made before (ii) conducting a more elaborate analysis of the system with either the Functions of Innovation Systems approach or the Strategic Niche Management approach, (iii) making recommendations how to enhance the current niche, (iv) developing long-term future visions and pathways for broad diffusion of the sustainable or social innovation in the niche phase.
(3) An individual assignment / essay for which topics are provided by the lecturers.

The course Sustainable Innovation and Social Change deals with sustainable innovation and related social change from an Industrial Ecology perspective. It takes as starting points:
(1) that technology and innovation on the one hand and society and users on the other hand mutually influence one another and evolve in a co-evolutionary way;
(2) that sustainable innovations, as well as system innovations and transitions towards sustainability are strongly needed to bring about sustainable development as well as industrial eco-parks and industrial symbiosis, and;
(3) that stakeholder involvement and participatory intervention instruments are needed and required to enable and realise implementation and broader upscaling in a socially responsible way.

The first part of the course evolves in particular around the concepts of Functions of Innovation Systems, Strategic Niche Management, and Sustainability Transitions / Multi-Level Perspective. The second part of the course focuses on participatory intervention and implementation instruments like backcasting, stakeholder dialogues and transition management, as well as on sustainable consumption transitions. These frameworks and instruments can be applied to socio-technical systems, such as regional eco-industrial parks, niches like organic agriculture and car sharing or renewable energy innovations in both industrialised and developing countries.

The course covers the following topics:
(i) major technology assessment concepts and basis technology assessment methods for exploring technological & social developments as well as analysing stakeholders and impacts;
(ii) innovation system and innovation niche theory and related analytical tools;
(iii) system innovation and transition concepts and theories;
(iv) stakeholder theory and participatory intervention & implementation instruments at the level of socio-technical systems like backcasting, stakeholder dialogues and transition management;
(v) how these relate to industrial eco-parks and industrial symbiosis, as well as other domains and emerging innovative niches relevant to the field of Industrial Ecology.

Course objectives

By the end of the course students have:

A. Knowledge of (i) major system innovation theories & transition theory; (ii) major concepts and basic methods for technology assessment & social change analysis; (iii) frameworks of Functions of Innovation Systems, Regime / Multi-Level analysis, and Strategic Niche Management; (iv) Major participatory intervention instruments such as transition management, backcasting, strategic niche management, stakeholder dialogues
B. Understanding of: strengths and limitations of the above mentioned theories, frameworks, tools and instruments.
C. Experience & skills in the application of (i) technology assessment (ii) a regime-multi-level analysis, (iii) innovation analysis (iv) making proposals for application of participatory intervention instruments.

Academic skills that are trained in the course include (i) development of research questions & proposal; (ii) writing coherent, well-structured and well argued academic reports; (iii) dealing with user and social aspects of innovation, and (iv) stakeholder analysis and diversity and ambiguity in stakeholder perspectives.


See blackboard TU Delft

Mode of instruction

Lectures, tutorials, group work on innovation analysis, presentations, individual assignment, training/tutorial for academic skills.

Assessment method

Group assignment counts for 80% and the individual assignment counts for 20% in the grade for this course.


The lecturer communicates via blackboard TU Delft.

Reading list

Reading consists of selected journal papers and book chapters on the topics relevant to the course; a reading list of articles and chapters will be provided. Reading includes book chapters and articles from peer reviewed international journals.
A list of additionally recommended literature will be provided. Students are expected to collect relevant literature themselves.


Because this course is part of a programme of Leiden University and TU Delft, all students have to be enrolled to both universities. An exception is made for TU Delft elective students who can enroll through blackboard TU Delft and sending a request to Dr. ir. J.N. Quist.

All students have to enroll for course and exam at the start of the course via uSis, Leiden University. For classnumbers see here.

Students who are not enrolled to the master’s programme Industrial Ecology have to ask permission from the studyadvisor of Industrial Ecology at least one month before start of the course by use of this form.

Exchange students can only enroll for this course if their home university has an Exchange agreement with both Leiden University and TU Delft. Exchange students have to ask permission from the studyadvisor of Industrial Ecology as soon as possible, preferably six months before the start of the course.

Contact information

Mr. dr. ir. J.N. Quist
Mrs. dr. L. M. Kamp


More information and the description of the course is published in the e-studyguide of TU Delft.