Building Transformative Capacities to Activate Regional Innovation Systems.

Problem statement

The originality of the research idea in the project lies in the conception of an extended frame of reference for capturing and evaluating regional innovation systems. To this end, the project introduces the concept of transformative innovation systems, which entails new requirements for innovation policy that are to be elaborated in the course of the project. In our view, innovation systems are transformative if the innovations they produce can contribute to a fundamental societal change towards sustainable development. Here, we draw in particular on the models developed in transition research on "transformative social innovations" and "transformative innovations" in general as well as the concept of "transformative capacities".


The project has three main objectives. First, the project wants to break away from the traditional understanding of structural weakness and (economic) innovation capacity and create a new, broader frame of reference oriented towards the mission-oriented understanding of innovation systems. Secondly, on the basis of and in cooperation with four regions labelled as "structurally weak", it wants to empirically examine which innovation patterns and dynamics exist in these regions according to the developed framework and how they are to be assessed/measured. Thirdly, based on this, it wants to develop concrete governance approaches, methods and instruments that support regions to increase their transformative capacities and to activate and strengthen regional sustainability-oriented innovation systems.

Research questions

What characteristics distinguish transformative from non-transformative innovation systems and how can the societal capacity for innovation to shape transformative change be determined? How do the characteristics of such systems differ in "structurally weak" regions? Which spatial and temporal innovation patterns and dynamics of transformative innovation systems can be identified and what role do endogenous and contextual factors play in the selected regions?


Introduction and development of the concept of the transformative regional innovation system. Integration of approaches from four fields: transformation research, innovation geography, sociology and research on alternative engagement and enterprise structures. Application and testing of the integrative approach to four peripheral regions in Germany with methods of transformation research.


Martens, K., Hanisch, M. and Rogga, S. (2023): Ressourcenbündelung durch Kooperation - der Weg zur nachhaltigen Transformation ländlicher Räume?!, Circular Economy. Kreisläufe schließen. Ressourcenverbrauch reduzieren, ASG (2023/03), pp. 53–57.

The Leibniz Institute of Ecological Urban and Regional Development is jointly funded by the federal government and the federal states.

FS Sachsen

This measure is co-financed by tax funds on the basis of the budget approved by the Saxon State Parliament.