nl en

Sustainable Innovation and Social Change


Admission requirements

This course is obligatory for students of the MSc Industrial Ecology (joint degree Leiden University and TU Delft).


The course consists of two parts: (1) A theoretical part consisting of lectures, readings and discussions; (2) A group assignment focusing on a self-chosen sustainable or social innovation.

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 for sustainable innovations like Functions of Innovation Systems, Strategic Niche Management, Sustainability Transitions / Multi-Level Perspective, grassroots innovation, social innovation and business models. 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.

Learning goals

By the end of the course students can:
A. memorize and explain (i) major system innovation theories & transition theory; (ii) major concepts and basic methods for sustainable and social innovation & social change analysis; (iii) Major participatory intervention instruments such as transition management, backcasting, strategic niche management, stakeholder dialogues
B. Discuss 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.

Teaching methods / mode of instruction

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

Type of assessments

Knowledge and understanding is tested through an individual written exam, which counts for 50% The group assignment on a sustainable or social innovation also counts for 50%. The group assignment consists of applying different sustainable innovation frameworks and perspectives to a chosen sustainable or social innovation followed by a discussion comparing those perspectives and their usability.
Final grades are expressed by means of a figure between 1 and 10, rounded to the nearest half. The grade 5,5 cannot be granted. Grades between 5,01 and 5,49 are rounded to 5,0 and grades between 5,50 and 5,99 are rounded to 6,0. Each part must be completed with a grade of 5.0 or higher.

Course materials / 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 and of additionally recommended literature will be provided. Students are expected to collect relevant literature themselves.


All students have to enroll for the course via Brightspace (before the start of the course) and for the exam via uSis, Leiden University.

Students who are not enrolled for the MSc Industrial Ecology, have to ask for permission from the study advisor of Industrial Ecology ( to join this course, at least one month before the start of the course. After permission students can enroll for the course via Brightspace.
This is different for TU Delft students who are not enrolled in the MSc Industrial Ecology who can choose this course as an elective and only have to ask permission from the course/module manager ( at least two months before the start of the course.

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 for permission from the study advisor of Industrial Ecology ( as soon as possible, preferably six months before the start of the course.


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