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Assessing the relevance of different proximity dimensions for knowledge exchange and (co‑)creation in sustainability‑oriented innovation networks

  • Innovations incorporating environmental and social considerations can address many sustainability challenges. Such sustainable innovations emerge in networks often comprising actors from business, academia, civil society, and government. The crucial interactions here are the (co-)creation and transfer of knowledge, mutual learning, and experimentation in different environments. To better understand these knowledge processes and hence the eventual outcome of sustainable innovations, we analyze the actors’ relationships with the help of proximity and its five dimensions, namely geographical, cognitive, institutional, organizational, and social proximity. Building upon findings from sustainability science and innovation system theory, we present a refined proximity framework, introducing a differentiation of institutional proximity into micro- and macro-institutional proximity and a differentiation of cognitive proximity into systems-cognitive, normative-cognitive, and transformative-cognitive proximity. Analyzing examples from the literature by applying this framework, we see that all proximity dimensions and their interdependencies help to better understand knowledge processes and innovations in sustainability-oriented innovation networks. We find that such networks often depict low levels of micro-institutional and systems-cognitive proximity, which coheres with the prevalence of inter- and transdisciplinary approaches and the wide inclusion of relevant stakeholders for addressing sustainability issues. Our framework further reveals that successful networks show high levels in other proximity dimensions, with normative-cognitive proximity appearing to play a crucial role, highlighting the importance of shared goal orientations. Our results provide valuable input for the formation of sustainability-oriented innovation networks by pointing out the necessary combination of distances that allow for creativity and learning, combined with appropriate proximities for exchange and mutual understanding.

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Author of HS ReutlingenWilke, Ulrich
Erschienen in:Sustainability science
Place of publication:Tokyo
Document Type:Journal article
Publication year:2024
Tag:innovation system; knowledge; multi-actor constellation; mutual learning; proximity; sustainable innovations
Page Number:17
PPN:Im Katalog der Hochschule Reutlingen ansehen
DDC classes:333.7 Natürliche Ressourcen, Energie und Umwelt
Open access?:Ja
Licence (German):License Logo  Creative Commons - CC BY - Namensnennung 4.0 International