22. Innovation journey in focus, the context in mind – recent approaches

Convenors: Peter Stegmaier, Lasse Loft, Michael Klingler and Ewert Aukes.

Session type: Full paper session.


In research on corporate innovations, the concept of an ‘innovation journey’ had been developed to make innovation more tangible and to view it not solely as a product, but as a process. Since then, the approach has been further developed, especially for emerging science and technologies and socio-technical systems, if not to say has been massively expanded into a multi-level approach. On the one hand, we want to find out what new developments there are in this area. Secondly, we have tested potentials in the area of socio-technical-ecological systems ourselves, which should also be the subject of the debate. Thirdly, we want to extend it to the innovation of governance – especially of socio-technical and socio-ecological regimes.

From our point of view, this is where the special appeal of this approach to STI policy lies. First, we chose this approach in the project in order to offer a more qualitative, reconstructive, and constructive form of accountability for innovation efforts, which shows a more realistic reflection and rationalization of the innovation work than the usual, rather abstract key performance indicators. Furthermore, this is achieved by including the innovators in the field to create such journeys, also to produce and reflect relevant information from a participatory perspective – one has to understand the process from the perspective of the process operators. Second, it seems to us to be a tried and tested means of providing policy practitioners with a perspective that is more comprehensible and helpful for the actual work of innovation or innovation facilitation, namely one that allows the actual dynamics, progress such as setbacks, actor constellations, practices, procedures and Trace impulses to be seen more concretely.

Especially in innovation contexts that emphasise the co-evolutionary character of the process, the innovation journey view can help to avoid a common misunderstanding that innovation processes are a matter of control, steering and management (cf. Van de Ven 2017)―the “command and control approach”, as Rip (2010) puts it. On the contrary, a closer look at the contingencies during innovation often reveals retrospective attributions of success to certain approaches or persons being misleading. Thus, we suggest imagining innovation as a processual and highly dynamic journey into uncharted waters (Van de Ven et al. 1999: 212). In order to achieve anything, managers and policymakers “are to go with the flow―although we can learn to manoeuvre the innovation journey, we cannot control it” (Van de Ven et al. 1999: 213). Subsequently, the consideration of the ‘pure’ innovation journey was rightly expanded to include various contextual dimensions. Nevertheless, it can be helpful to look at the core of the journey very specifically without neglecting the multiple other levels.

We would like to discuss with scholars who have elaborated further the innovation journey concept tailored to various fields innovation, e.g., in socio-technical regimes, policies, services, socio-ecological or ecosystems:

  • Whether and how they work with an innovation journey focus primarily on social practices, trajectories of action or similar action-related approaches.
  • How to combine an innovation journey focus with a multi-level perspective or other common approaches from innovation research.
  • How to enrich an innovation journey focus with one on the governance and/or policy dimension.
  • Whether and how they integrate the processual journey view with more static network analysis, situation analysis or the like.
  • How the innovation journey approach can be seen as particularly relevant for understanding and making of STI policy.

We would appreciate it if innovation researchers wanted to discuss the broadest possible range of varieties of the innovation journeys in this track and at the same time remain open to methodical follow-up questions.