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Transformative capacity

Sustainability transitions can be understood in several different ways. RISE has the competences and the abilities to apply a tailored system perspective depending on the assignment, industry, social system or research question. Increased understanding of change is above all a value in transition governance.

  • RISE offers process leaders and researchers with broad expertise in sustainable transformations who, together with technical expertise, can carry out projects adapted to real needs in, for example, the public sector, industries, regions and business.
  • As Sweden's largest research institute, RISE is an independent player in the middle of the Swedish innovation system.
  • RISE works with both research and practice and we are passionate about supporting industry and the public sector to reorient their operations, and Sweden, towards more sustainable futures.

Sustainability transitions

Transformative capacity means acting proactively with the support of a system perspective to contribute to the development of new sustainable practices, logics and technologies. RISE helps you navigate complex innovation and change processes. We apply a systems perspective based on theories and models developed within the sustainability transitions literature (e.g., innovation systems, multi-level perspective, transition management, transformative innovation policy and mission-oriented perspectives) to analyse and describe how socio-technical systems, such as transport, food, energy or cities, can change over time and become more sustainable.

The socio-technical systems perspective is based on the idea that innovation is an obvious and essential part of a society's development. To change a socio-technical systems and direct it towards more sustainable futures, there is, however, a need for radical innovations that can give rise to drastic changes for multiple actors. The conditions for radical innovation are closely linked to how a socio-technical system is designed. Policy, culture and actors are thus some of the aspects that in various ways can both prevent and enable radical innovation and sustainability transitions.

Sustainability transitions take place over time and in complex interconnected systems, which no player can independently anticipate or control. But with the help of a socio-technical systems perspective, we can understand and sometimes even learn to manoeuvre sustainability transitions.

What is a systems perspective?

A systems perspective sheds light on the interaction and relationships between different components and activities in a socio-technical system that together prevent or enable sustainable change. By focusing on the connections between parts of a system rather than the individual parts, we can gain new insights into how a system behaves and can be affected.

A systems perspective is often based on a specific technology, technological innovation or service, such as batteries, hydrogen-powered vehicles and mobility. It can also be based on a specific societal challenge or mission, such as that Sweden's food production should have a net zero climate footprint in 2045, or be defined by a specific sector, such as the construction sector. Regardless of which system component that is in focus, sustainability transitions are characterised by cross-sectoral and complex relationships. With an increased understanding of the system, the conditions for proactively contributing to new sustainable practices, logics and technologies are improved.

Missions, visions and directionalities - from now to the future

An important part of transformative capacity is what ‘direction’ a development can and should take. What is sustainable? And what can sustainable futures look like? Learning, co-creation and experimentation are therefore important aspects of socio-technical transitions. The expertise transformative capacity is based on scientific methods and analysis, often carried out in close collaboration with technical competence. Within this expertise we produce scientific publications and work with practical tools and processes for labs, forums and development arenas where people from different parts of one or more socio-technical systems can meet and build transformative capacity. We also work closely with expertise in, for example, Foresight to raise awareness and pave the way for desirable futures. Combined with a socio-technical system perspective, conditions are then created for actively changing the current situation and manoeuvring towards a sustainable futures.

Who is transformative capacity for? 

Public actors with key roles in one or more innovation systems (such as the Swedish Transport Administration, the Swedish Energy Agency, regions, municipalities and the EU) or who fund research and innovation (eg Formas and Vinnova) often collaborate with RISE to better understand sustainable transitions or build your their own transformative capacity. However, also other actors can benefit from strengthened their transformative capacity, for example to accelerate their work with radical innovation or sustainable change.

Magnus Carl Eriksson

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Magnus Carl Eriksson


+46 10 516 55 61

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