Research themes

InnoLab conducts research in three thematic clusters: Society & Systems, Transformational Innovation, and Consumer & User-centric Innovation

Systems & Society

The research under Systems and Society theme takes a system-level perspective on grand challenges and societal change towards sustainability. Our societies face large-scale and complex problems such as climate change, biodiversity loss, poverty and inequality. These problems form hard-to-solve grand challenges. Understanding the underlying complexity and solving these challenges calls for transdisciplinary approaches and diverse collaboration and co-creation between organizations and actors.

We examine how system-level change is orchestrated and how institutions and organizations interplay and co-create sustainable innovations. Our research team comprises a wide range of disciplines, including regional studies, rural studies, ecological economics, industrial management and marketing. In our research, projects and events, we engage with policymakers and other stakeholders at supranational, national, regional and municipal levels. A good example of such projects is the two-year Practicing Mission-Oriented Innovation Policy project, funded by Business Finland, staffed by InnoLab researchers and joined by a number of internationally acclaimed scholars.

Our work contributes primarily to the following United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure (9), Reduced inequalities (10), Sustainable Cities and Communities (11), Responsible Consumption and Production (12), and Climate Action (13) and secondarily to Gender Equality (5) and Affordable and Clean Energy (7).

Selected publications

Transformational Innovation

In this thematic cluster, we examine how to orchestrate industrial revitalization and drive organisational transformation. We collaborate with businesses, non-profits, and government agencies, as well as other stakeholders, to accept, exploit, or manage disruptive change. We help with agile management, digital transformation, sustainable innovation, performance, and revitalization for businesses.

We believe that a focus on social sustainability, that is, issues of inclusion, equality, and social justice, would bring about much-needed disruptive changes in the private and public sectors, including businesses, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and government. The aspect of social sustainability is frequently downplayed or ignored in discussions over disruptive technological changes.  InnoLab is committed to filling this lacuna.

Our research projects’ foci vary from regional through national to global. We strive to preserve the vitality and relevance of each perspective. We collaborate locally with small and medium-sized enterprises, the City of Vaasa, other municipalities, the Regional Council of Ostrobothnia, non-governmental organisations, and citizen groups. We also have international industry partners such as Wartsila, ABB, and Danfoss. We are also internationally networked with like-minded research institutions. To give just one example, InnoLab hosts the Globalization’s ethical implications on curricula project: a five-country spanning study, funded by the UK-based Cultural Evolution Society’s Transformation Fund.

From the perspective of transformational innovation, United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy), 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), and 9 (Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure) are pertinent to us. They interconnect and provide a holistic framework for addressing requirements for economic, social, and environmental transformation. These SDGs recognise the role of technology, policy, and governance in bringing about transformative change and ensuring a more sustainable, inclusive, and resilient future for all.

Selected publications

Consumer & User-centric Innovation

This thematic cluster explores how people, as consumers or users, interact with the products and services they use in their daily lives and how this shapes their thoughts, actions, and emotions. In simple terms, we focus on how people use creativity to improve their situations and lives. We aim to promote sustainable innovation practices that are ethical, environmentally friendly, socially responsible, and economically viable.

Some examples of our topic areas of interest include:

Creativity, Value & Innovation - We reflect on the ideas of creativity, value, and innovation from a broader socio-historical perspective to understand how these concepts have emerged and then become taken-for-granted features of our way of life. Creativity and value concerning innovation are both enabled and constrained by market factors - historically and culturally conditioned residues of how we find ourselves in the material world.

Consumers/Users & Digital Technology – We broaden our understanding of such issues as adoption and diffusion of innovation by embedding such practices and phenomena into ‘consumer end-users' everyday contexts. Research topics in this vein might include: digital selves, digital possessions and collecting, perceived control of digital artefacts, digital virtual practices, digital technology and desire; digital technology and value creation, and market evolution via changes in technological innovations.

Users & Value Creation – We examine the key modes of ‘value’ that consumer and user innovators appreciate; acknowledge how these modes are constituted in and through the marketplace and how such insight may be leveraged for commercial and operational ends.

Consumption Communities & Dynamics of Collective Innovation – We explore the dynamics of different types of consumption communities to discern how different kinds of social formation create value. Different collectives create value through processes of social identity, subcultural capital, taste, linking value, heterogeneity, and practice.

Selected publications