Applied Research Institutions as Incubator for Sustainable Innovation
Arnold Tukker, TNO-STB, Netherlands
TNO, a major public contract research organisation in the EU (5500 staff), is active in various activities that aim to promoting sustainable system innovation.

Against this background, TNO embarked on various activities that had as a goal to: • Analyse the nature of system innovations. We will present a model of ‘streams’ and ‘rounds’ (Butter et al. 2002). The streams basically deal with the different issues that play a role in the transition process; whereas the ‘rounds’ are comparable to the phases of Winsemius’ policy cycles or Rotmans’and Kemp’s transition phases. • To assess the position and potential of public contract research organisations in stimulation of system innovations (based on Tukker and Nijhuis, 2002); • To formulate a coherent internal and external research programme. Here, basically a distinction is made in (1) system analysis, (2) foresight/backcasting (3) system design, (4) business strategy and –drivers, (5) development of pilot projects and ‘living laboratories’, (6) policy measures for system innovation, and (7) evaluation and overall vision development on the issue of sustainable system innovation. By this, a true link between theory and practice is created, allowing for learning in interaction with doing.

The presentation will result in a vision in how and to what extent (public) research organisations can truly stimulate system innovations. We’ll argue that the expectations are often (much) too high. Of course research can induce system changes – but it is doubtful if this automatically forms a change towards sustainability. Hence, a probably more important issue is the creation of drivers that stimulate actors to guide their innovation efforts into a sustainable direction. Which is not a matter of doing the fortyest pilot project, but taking stock of the lessons embedded in Kingdon’s windows of opportunity, Sabatiers advocacy coalition approach, etc.

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