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Transitions, Innovation and Governance


Title course: Transitions, Innovation, Governance for Industrial Ecology

Coordinator(s): Dr. J. N. Quist and Dr. T. Hoppe
Other involved teachers: -

Entry requirements

This course is obligatory for students of the MSc Industrial Ecology (joint degree TU Delft and Leiden University). This course is also available as an elective to TU Delft master students, but not in 2021-2022.

Description of the course

This course provides an overview of sustainable innovation, sustainability transitions, in particular socio-technical transitions and their governance. The starting point of the course is that sustainable innovation, transitions and their governance are required to bring about sustainable development and transitions to sustainability. Innovation is considered as both a technical and non-technical novelty that can be brought successfully to the market, can improve business practices, or can lead to major changes in user practices in society. Sustainable innovation is related to concepts like social innovation, eco-innovation and responsible innovation. It is shown that sustainable innovation can take place at various scales from product and technology to system level society and when taking place at a system level it will lead to societal transitions, which are needed to move towards sustainability. Adequate participatory visioning methods, governance strategies and policies are needed to facilitate sustainable innovation and sustainability transitions. The course consist of 4 blocks. The first block introduces basic theoretical concepts and frameworks of sustainable innovation, transitions, and governance. The second block expands on major theories of: (i) innovation at network and system level, (ii) transitions, and (iii) governance arrangements and policy instrumentation on how to govern innovation and transition processes. The third block covers participatory visioning, backcasting and co-creation approaches to facilitate and govern transitions to sustainability, as well as integration in the course, and making links to other courses in the IE program. Cases and illustrative examples are taken from (i) energy innovation & renewable energy transitions, and (ii) circular economy innovation and the transition to a circular economy.

Learning goals:

After completion of the course students:
o understand the main theories, frameworks and methods about sustainable innovation and socio-technical transitions as well the governance frameworks, policy and strategies thereof,
o are able to apply these theories and frameworks to practical cases in the context of Industrial Ecology, and
o can reflect on limitations and conditions of these theories, frameworks and methods, as well as on how to apply these.
The following skills are trained:
o Applying the main theoretical frameworks and methods from TRIG to practical cases and developing understanding of limitations and constraints of these frameworks and methods, as well as barriers and constraints of exploring and facilitating transitions in real-life.
o Development of research problem statements and research questions.
o Conducting a niche-transition analysis and governance analysis on a sustainable or social innovation relevant to sustainable energy transitions or the transition to a Circular Economy.
o Using vision development and governance and actor analysis.

Education format

Lectures, readings, tutorials, group project on innovation and governance analysis, presentations, training/tutorial for academic skills.

Assessment forms

The grading is based on an individual part (50%) and a group part (50%). The individual part consists of a written exam based on the content of the readings and the lectures. The group part consists of group work on existing cases or to develop a case relevant to transitions, innovation and governance for IE, related to the energy transition or the transition to a Circular Economy. The results can be presented in a seminar to all students in the course and teaching staff. In case of unforeseen circumstances or measures resulting from COVID-19, the written exam will be transformed into an online or take-home exam with open questions. This exam will still count for 50%. 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.


Reading consists of selected journal papers and book chapters on 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.  


This course uses Brightspace. Course documents, the course manual, announcements etc. can be found via Brightspace. To get access to the Brightspace page of this course, you first need to register via uSis.


This course is open for students of the MSc Industrial Ecology (joint degree TU Delft and Leiden University. Students can register for the course and exam via uSis.