The increasing population growth and the limited resources make sustainable innovations indispensable. Due to stricter legal frameworks and increasing demands of consumers and investors regarding sustainability, companies also have to be innovative in regard to their economic sustainability. However, sustainable development is only possible with profound and comprehensive innovations on the societal level. Incremental innovations are not sufficient; radical and system-changing innovations are needed. For this, new technologies play a particularly important role, e.g. blockchain, AI.
To innovate such sustainability solutions, companies can follow an open innovation approach and involve suppliers, customers, NGOs, other companies, or competitors and other stakeholders. In doing so, they gain new knowledge, legitimacy, and critical mass for large-scale innovation. In this context, it is important to align innovations with the so-called “triple bottom line” (TBL), the triad of business, environment, and society, and to avoid unintended harm at an early stage, for example through rebound effects.
In our research, we particularly investigate the innovation process with regard to the consideration of sustainability. Exemplary questions we ask ourselves are:
Who are sustainability-relevant actors in the innovation process?
What role do these actors play?
What requirements must innovations fulfill in order to be considered sustainable?
Which methods and tools can be used to consider sustainability in the innovation process?
How can an open innovation approach be implemented?
In the SmartHaPSSS project, we are investigating how sustainability can be integrated into the innovation process of smart product-service systems in order to generate value for TBL and avoid negative impacts. In the Sustainability-oriented Innovations along the Supply Chain project, we are exploring the role of NGO collaborations in developing innovations within the supply chain. In the CODIFeY project, an open innovation platform was established and innovations for electric mobility were developed together with the community.