Handbook of Sustainable Innovation
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Handbook of Sustainable Innovation

Edited by Frank Boons and Andrew McMeekin

The Handbook of Sustainable Innovation maps the multiple lineages of research and understanding that constitute academic work on how technological change relates to sustainable practices of production and consumption. Leading academics contribute by mapping the general evolution of this academic field, our understanding of sustainable innovation at the firm, user, and systems level, the governance of sustainable innovation, and the methodological approaches used. The Handbook explores the distinctiveness of sustainable innovation and concludes with suggestions for generating future research avenues that exploit the current diversity of work while seeking increased systemic insight.
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Chapter 17: Sustainable innovation research methods

Floortje Alkemade


With the shift in focus of innovation policy goals from economic prosperity to sustainability, a need for accompanying methods and indicators arises. This chapter discusses the main methodological approaches used to study sustainable innovation processes, including process-focused and outcome-focused approaches. The chapter calls for (1) increasing efforts to systematically analyse the existing body of case study research to identify common patterns and processes. Despite their limitations, efforts should also continue to collect data and indicators on sustainable innovation with global coverage. (2) Attention for the broader technological, social, and economic context in which sustainable innovation takes place, that is, a systemic perspective is needed. And (3) the use of a wide variety of indicators to evaluate sustainable innovation. This requires mixed method approaches and a further integration of quantitative and qualitative methods as well as a reconnection between the sustainability transitions community and the general innovation sciences community.

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