6.3 Challenges and research questions

The developments in the significance of knowledge and innovation for the economy and society, as reflected in the changes in the policy frameworks outlined above, require a partial reorientation of methods and instruments to create social value and give substance to diffusion and upscaling of successful applications. This does not mean that existing methods have become obsolete. They often deserve adjustment and recontextualisation. In addition, there are a number of new challenges that require new methods to be developed.

First of all, the concept of value in the context of innovation for social transformations must be further elaborated and refined, focusing on broadening it beyond the until recently dominant economic interpretation. In doing so, it is necessary to no longer treat the aforementioned negative externalities (such as environmental damage or growing inequality in society as a result of the operation of the economy and market) as annoying residues, but to incorporate them fully into the valuation of new services, applications and systems and can be seen as part of societal challenges and transitions.

Another important challenge that has already been partly addressed in the context of innovation in networks and value chains is the further development and validation of collaborative models for value creation. This is important in the context of social transitions in which coalitions necessarily extend beyond the economic domain and involve social stakeholders more than before.

Methods to investigate the underlying value systems of stakeholders and to ensure alignment are crucial here in the context of innovation for societal transitions. In particular, the inclusion of users and the involvement of civil society in a broad sense is crucial, partly regarding diffusion and upscaling. Mazzucato (2019) formulates this challenge on the basis of the question of how to involve citizens in processes of co-design, co-creation, co-implementation and co-assessment of social missions. She also wondered what capabilities and tools the public sector needs to foster a dynamic and innovative ecosystem, including the skill of civil servants to enable experimentation and help governments work outside of their traditional silos.

Relatively little is known about the organisational capabilities required to create value in an ecosystem with multiple stakeholders. Value creation in such a complex context raises specific dilemmas that require special skills (see, for example, Hillebrand et al., 2015). Little is known about the dynamics of sense making: how do stakeholders jointly determine what is value, what is of value and how value should be created? In partnerships, how do you ensure that individual contributions all lead to a common goal, and that each individual contribution is properly valued (cf. Oskam et al., 2020)? The same applies mutatis mutandis to the conceptualisation of what markets exactly are in this context, how market formation comes about and ultimately what upscaling entails and whether this is desirable and possible independently of the specific contexts. It goes without saying that, in order to achieve this, cooperation between different knowledge disciplines is indispensable, which in turn must maintain a close relationship with broad social practice. It is also important to understand the resistance to innovations and to develop ways and methods to deal with this. This is topical and essential, especially in the field of social transitions, because the formulation of objectives for these transitions is also a political process and provokes discussions. In general, there is a pro-innovation bias in both the formation of theories and the practice of innovation, which Rogers (1962) noted decades ago. Too little attention is paid to resistance and it is assumed that resistance is simply the lack of adoption of innovations. However, there is often more to it.

Research questions Numerous relevant questions for further research have already been raised earlier.

Broadening the value concept aimed at societal transitions

  • To what extent are the methods and instruments aimed at creating economic value through innovation suitable for the realisation of societal transitions through innovation in which cultural, social and ecological value are important in addition to economic value?

  • How can economic, cultural, social and ecological value creation be combined?

Definition and specification of a minimum viable ecosystem

  • Which elements are necessary for a minimum viable ecosystem that are sufficient to lay the foundation for social transitions and to which parties are added in a later upscaling and diffusion phase?

  • What does a minimal viable proposition look like?

  • Which methods are suitable for better understanding and getting to know the process of diffusion and upscaling?

  • To what extent can diffusion modelling be used for this?

Development of collaborative business models

  • What are the (basic) elements of collaborative models for value creation aimed at societal transitions and how can they serve for diffusion and upscaling of the necessary innovations?

  • What is the theoretical framework that defines collaborative business models and links them to transition science? What archetypes are there?

  • What are the performance indicators for the design and realisation of collaborative business models aimed at societal transitions?

  • What is the basis for so-called community based business models?

Articulation and alignment of value systems

  • How can the underlying value systems of stakeholders that are relevant for societal transitions be mapped out?

  • How can stakeholder alignment be achieved?

  • What are suitable ways to deal with resistance to broad forms of value creation and diffusion and upscaling?

  • What is the influence and consequences of the frequently observed pro-innovation bias?

  • In that context, what are the conditions for successful diffusion and upscaling of innovations with a view to social transitions?

Organisational capabilities, partnerships and alliances

  • Which organisational capabilities are required to create value in an ecosystem with multiple stakeholders, in the context of societal transitions?

  • Which partnerships and alliances of knowledge disciplines and research traditions are necessary to realise methods for broad value creation and upscaling of innovations?

  • Which of these are situationally bound to specific transitions and which are more generically necessary for the development of these methods?

Financeability and value capture in societal transitions

  • How is the topic of financeability and risk profile of value creation and upscaling in the context of social transitions handled?

  • Is the risk profile of a distributed investment across multiple partners who are in transition in conjunction, smaller than the sum of the participants' individually assessed financing?

  • What is the relationship between public and private financing and how are risks with different partners and stakeholders invested?

  • How can value created within the process of societal transitions be cashed in and who will collect the proceeds at what time and how?

Formation of new markets

  • Societal transitions often require new markets to be created; how does that process go and which factors influence its formation and formulation?

  • What is the role of institutional and socio-cognitive aspects in this? Which factors play a role in diffusion and upscaling?

  • What are variables to consider to enable reproduction, diffusion and upscaling of innovations in different contexts? For example, what is the importance of the distinction between the urban and non-urban contexts?

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