Sustainability Transitions and Innovation

  • Responsible institution; Western Norway University of Applied Science- HVL
  • Course responsible: Lars Coenen (HVL & University of Oslo)
  • Where: HVL, Bergen
  • When: 20-24 November 2023
  • 7,5 ECTS

Contents and structure

Fundamental transitions within societal sectors such as energy, transport, water and food are required to cope with sustainability challenges that are increasingly global (and urgent) in dimension. Such transitions presuppose the introduction, diffusion and adoption of green innovations of various kinds to ensure a shift to a more sustainable and environmentally sound society. Due to the specific, often wicked, characteristics of sustainability problems incremental change in existing systems is deemed insufficient. Sustainable transition research emphasizes the need for transformative change at a systemic level, encompassing wholesale changes in the modes of production and consumption of societal sectors. The development and implementation of innovations in sustainable transitions require transdisciplinary and cross-sectoral approaches that do not only target single technology options or piecemeal fixes but also account for their co-evolving institutional, political, industrial and spatial contexts.

The course is based on a sociotechnical systems approach and is rooted in transition theories. During the course students participate in plenary sessions with lectures from internationally leading scholars in this field, smaller group sessions where they present and receive feedback on their own work, and contribute to the discussion of their peer students work. The plenary sessions will include questions and dialogue and there will be good opportunities for informal discussions among participants and faculty.

The course consists of eight modules.

  • Module 1 – Introduction to Innovation and Sustainability Transitions
  • Module 2 – Technological Innovation Systems, Industrial Dynamics and Incumbents
  • Module 3 – Innovation Policy and Sustainability Transitions
  • Module 4 – Globalization and the Geography of Transitions
  • Module 5 – Urban and Regional Sustainability Transitions
  • Module 6 – An institutional perspective on sustainability transitions
  • Module 7 – Emergent topics in Sustainability Transitions
  • Module 8 – Publishing in/on Sustainability Transitions

Learning Outcome

The course offers an introduction to the topic of innovation and sustainability transitions. Students will become familiar with the foundations of transitions research, its main conceptual and analytical frameworks as well as with current debates and knowledge gaps in the field of sustainability transitions. The course is designed to provide students with an opportunity to become familiar with different aspects of transitions research and to discuss this in relation to their own research projects.


  • will have knowledge of how to interpret and operationalise the concept of sustainability at different geographical scales and sectors and its imperatives for development;
  • will have advanced knowledge on transition pathways to foster sustainable modes of production and consumption in different societal sectors;
  • will be able to understand, operationalize and critically reflect on the main conceptual frameworks in transition theory, notably Technological Innovation Systems (TIS), the Multi Level Perspective on socio-technical transitions (MLP), Strategic Niche Management (SNM) and Transition Management (TM);
  • Will be able to understand and analyse the role of firms and industrial dynamics in sustainability transitions;
  • will be familiar with the spatialities of sustainability transitions and how geography influences such processes;
  • can contribute to the development of new interdisciplinary and cross-sectoral knowledge, theories, methods and their interpretations.


  • will understand and be able to explain the resource potential, technical properties, socio-economic challenges, and environmental impacts of future key technologies and solutions for sustainable development;
  • will be able to synthesize material from a broad range of relevant areas in addressing specific questions about the challenges of innovation in sustainability transitions;
  • can independently design research projects targeting a multifaceted evaluation of a prospective green technology or solution;
  • will be able to apply conceptual and theoretical arguments in discussion of the transition of industrial and societal systems and the geographical dimensions of such changes;

General competence

  • will understand the major topics, facts and issues related to sustainability transitions with respect to political, societal, and technological prospects and limitations, environmental considerations, as well as societal effects;
  • will have developed the skills needed to undertake independent research;
  • will be able to contribute with and reflect on new ideas that foster societal change towards a sustainable future; and
  • will be able to disseminate, articulate and discuss his/her own comprehensive, independent research, and utilize relevant scientific theory, concepts and terminology.

Entry requirements

A background in social science, engineering or natural sciences. Familiarity with inter-disciplinary research is desirable

Teaching methods

  • Lectures
  • Active discussion
  • Student presentations (incl. Q&A) at the end of the course week that outlines the initial idea for the course paper.
  • Writing of a short research/course paper (<5,000 words).


The research paper is graded pass/fail by an internal committee. Participation in the course is a prerequisite.

Read more about the course

Apply here


Date & Location

Start date: 20/11/2023
Date physical: 20-24 November 2023
Location: HVL, Bergen