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Developing and testing new innovation methods for complex societal challenges

To manage the transition to a sustainable society and meet the challenges we face, radical changes are required with the help of new knowledge and innovation. Society as a whole needs to join forces and adapt to achieve the 17 global goals of the 2030 Agenda. This requires system innovation and new innovation methods that accelerate the transition.

- We need to jointly accelerate innovation that responds to the major 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. We need a clearer direction and sufficiently ambitious and long-term investments in collaboration with the business community.

Darja Isaksson, Director General of Vinnova

Step by step, the realization has come that we need to address complex societal challenges and conduct innovation work in new ways to transform society, for example to create climate-neutral cities and communities. To succeed in the transition, system innovation and change in several dimensions are needed simultaneously: policy and regulations, technology, business models, investments, behavior and infrastructure.

The development of so-called system demonstrators is a way to enable system innovation to meet complex societal challenges with great power and mobilization. With system demonstrators, we want to test and demonstrate the transformation of a system in a real environment, where space is created for experimentation and where areas with great potential can be scaled up. Conceptual development has been ongoing for a couple of years and Vinnova is now implementing several initiatives to experiment with system demonstrators.

- As an initiative to advance the development, Vinnova, together with the strategic innovation program Viable Cities, has chosen to prototype system demonstrators focusing on the transition to climate-neutral cities in 2030, based on the needs of municipalities and citizens.

Andreas Netz, head of unit and development manager of Vinnova's work with system demonstrators.

- The municipalities and their partners in Viable Cities are working together to accelerate the transition to climate-neutral cities by 2030 with a good life for all within the boundaries of the planet. Together, we are now starting work on developing a new form of intervention with a focus on implementation and scaling up. System demonstrators will be developed as a powerful tool for the transition," says Olga Kordas, Program Manager for Viable Cities.

System demonstrators should be seen as one among many forms of action needed to foster system innovation. The conceptual development of system demonstrators builds on a number of related initiatives that have emerged in recent years. Examples include Deep Demonstrators for Clean and Healthy Cities (Climate-KIC), Creative Councils (Nesta) and Climate Neutral Cities 2030 (Viable Cities).

The background and design of the Vinnova and Viable Cities joint can be found in a white paper/PDF available at this link.

Six projects have been granted funding for a design phase for system demonstrators. These projects are run by the municipalities of Gothenburg, Lund, Malmö, Stockholm together with Järfälla and Nacka, Uppsala together with Linköping and Umeå and Umeå.

Here you can read more about the above project: System demonstrators for faster climate transition in cities | Vinnova