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Innovation and Interface Management


Admission requirements



Using fuel cell technology, hydrogen can be used in cars as an alternative to petrol-based or electric cars. From a sustainability perspective, this might be the better alternative but it would require an entirely new infrastructure with standard interfaces between the cars and the ‘fuel’ stations in this infrastructure. The possible new technology competes against existing ones, the question is how to measure environmental performance, serious safety issues apply, and companies compete with each other but also need a common solution in order to make things happen. So, at the supply side we observe a dynamic process of cooperation and competition between a large variety of stakeholders which should result in products (or services) that will be accepted in the market while addressing societal needs, and for which shared interface specifications are essential. Interfaces link the different parts of the system and link the system to human beings. These interface specifications should remain stable during a longer time period, which allows innovations in other parts of the system, such as the cars. Increasingly, innovation is about integrated systems of products and services rather than single products or services and this course provides you with knowledge and skills on you how to manage such innovation projects.

Course objectives

This course aims to provide you with basic knowledge about interface management and, next, its integration in innovation management. This should enable you to develop and employ a strategy for an individual company, a supply chain or a branch of business on how to manage product or service innovation in combination with interfaces. After this course, you will be able to:

  • explain how interfaces support complex systems of processes, products and services.

  • illustrate interfaces’ roles in innovation of such systems.

  • describe how standards can be used to specify interfaces.

  • distinguish between different ways in which standards can be developed.

  • formulate a strategy for a company to influence interface specifications in a multi-stakeholder setting.

  • make concrete recommendations on using innovation and interface management to enable responsible innovation.



Course outline

This course provides you with basic knowledge about interface management and, next, its integration in innovation management. This should enable you to develop and employ a strategy for an individual company, a supply chain or a branch of business. Or, as in case of the SPG theme, a municipality. The multidisciplinary scientific basis of this course will be complemented with business input in the form of business cases and assignments.
The course covers the entire area of interface management, not only at company level but also at the level of industry associations and governments, nationally as well regionally and globally and relates this to (responsible) innovation management. After a general introduction, the course addresses subsequently interface management in the form of formal standardisation at the national, regional and global level, interface management by industry associations and by industrial consortia, interface management at company level, and interface management in chains and networks of organizations. A next topic is conformity assessment: how to make sure that interfaces indeed meet the specifications set for them. Then we pay attention to methods and techniques of standardisation, and the several legal implications (including the use of standards as ‘soft laws’ and the relation with Intellectual Property Rights). Next, we connect all this to innovation by linking interface management, standards and standardisation to the phases of the innovation process and seeking evidence for the impact on innovation. Finally, the question is how to manage an integrated approach of innovation and interface management, including the way of organizing it, within companies and in cooperation between companies and other stakeholders.
The course includes scientific contributions from disciplines like economics, law and political science – and the challenge is to combine these disciplines to solve real business problems and generate new business opportunities.

Mode of instruction

  • lectures;

  • teaching cases;

  • role playing game;

  • class discussions;

  • company visit;

  • individual and group assignments.

Course Load

Assessment method


Small individual assignments (presentations or short papers), written exam and group assignment. For each of the assignments, individuals and groups will receive a grade (1-10). The final grade will be a weighted average of the grades for the different assignments.
In case you impress the teacher repeatedly through the way you participate in class discussions, he may decide to slightly increase the final grade. Criteria include:

  • Are points made relevant to the current discussion? Are they linked to the comments of others?

  • Do the comments show clear evidence of appropriate and insightful analysis of the topic?

  • Do comments clarify and highlight the important aspects of earlier comments and lead to a clearer understanding of the concepts being covered?


  • Small individual assignments: 25%

  • Written exam: 25%

  • Group assignment: 50%


In the unfortunate case that your final grade is 5 or lower, you are allowed a re-sit for those constituting elements for which you had a grade of 5 or lower. The re-sit assignment has to be done within a month after the final grade has been communicated. Please contact your teacher.

Exam Review


Presence during class is mandatory; if you have compelling reasons for being absent, please inform Henk de Vries beforehand. Your job, if any, is not a compelling reason nor are holidays or other courses.


In this course, Blackboard is used to present course information, notify you of changes to the course and to make course materials available.

Reading list

Scientific and professional papers and teaching cases, to be provided or indicated via Blackboard.


You register for the whole minor and for each individual course in uSis.