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Vinnova develops system innovation for a sustainable future

To cope with the transition to a sustainable society and meet the challenges we face, radical changes are required with the help of new knowledge and innovation. The whole society needs to gather strength and change in order to achieve the 17 global goals in Agenda 2030.

This web page has been machine translated. If there are any uncertainties, please refer to the Swedish text.

The challenges are complex and difficult, sometimes impossible to break down into smaller sub-goals that an individual actor must be able to solve. To cope with the transition, we must change both individual parts and entire systems.

- We need to jointly accelerate innovation that responds to the great challenges of our time. For this to be possible, the innovation system must be developed, which is a main task for Vinnova to contribute to. It requires a clearer direction and sufficiently ambitious and long-term investments in collaboration with the business community, says Darja Isaksson, director general of Vinnova.

Innovations for a sustainable future is about more than competitiveness, it is an existential issue for all of us. Radically improved technology is needed together with innovative methods and solutions that ensure sustainability. But there is also a need for radical changes to systems, so-called system innovation.

- The short time we have to convert to a sustainable society requires new ways of working of everyone, also for us as an innovation authority, says Darja Isaksson.

Entire systems need to change

System innovation involves radical changes in social and technical systems, and at the same time needs to include several levels in the systems. System innovation usually takes place through small and gradual changes in combination with more large-scale and radical changes.

Therefore, it becomes important with the mechanisms that drive the interplay between, on the one hand, innovative solutions of a technical / methodological nature, and on the other hand the infrastructure, regulations and demand required for innovations - individually or in clusters - to make a difference.

Sweden has long been a leading innovation country, where investments in research, innovation and collaborations have been the key to our success and competitiveness. The strengths we have now need to be used to accelerate the transition to a sustainable society in Sweden, and in the world.

Methods and tools for system change

The increasingly burning need for system changes for a development towards ecological, economic and social sustainability places new eligibility requirements on Vinnova's tools and initiatives. It is not enough to stimulate innovation. New directions need to be outlined. This requires tools with breadth and anchoring, in combination with knowledge and insights about the systems they operate in. Vinnova mobilizes and finances project that use new types of innovation tools. Here we list some examples.

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    Ambitious goals for system transformation with broad societal relevance. Means that actors from different sectors, industries and disciplines gather around a bold, inspiring and measurable objective that must be achieved within a certain period of time.

    Read the EU definition: Missions in Horizon Europe

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    Process / method based on design methodology that can be used to formulate missions or identify needs and design efforts - for example system demonstrators.

    Mission-oriented innovation - a new way of meeting societal challenges

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    System demonstrator is an effort to mobilize and gather partnerships for testing and demonstration of entire system solutions in a real environment. The solutions must be possible to scale up to affect the entire system.

    System demonstrators consist of a variety of tests and experiments and can be a tool for achieving a mission, can be created as part of a mission-oriented approach or be part of a portfolio within a strategic innovation program

Initiatives with a focus on system change

Vinnova develops tools for system innovation together with a breadth of actors. The initiatives aim at mobilization in the direction of ambitious objective that the actors formulate together. Here are some examples:

Initiatives to create system demonstrators

Vinnova finances the development and implementation of system demonstrators. The purpose is demonstration and testing in a real environment by combining innovative solutions with the potential to create system change that contributes to sustainable change. The demonstrated system solutions must have international competitiveness.

Five dimensions for sustainable conversion with system demonstrators

Working with system demonstrators is a way to find and understand what needs to change to achieve change. We do this by taking into account all the aspects required to solve a problem. Testing with system demonstrators takes place in a real environment in people's everyday lives.

The system demonstrator is designed and implemented with a clear system perspective by addressing all five dimensions of system innovation:

  • Technology, products and processes
  • Business models, investments and procurement
  • Policy and regulations
  • Behavior, culture and values
  • Infrastructure


Andreas Netz

Head of department

+46 8 473 30 86

Ylva Strander

Head of department

+46 8 473 31 78

Joanna Franzén

Strategic Area Lead Sustainable food systems

+46 8 473 30 54

Last updated 29 June 2022

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