Social Innovation Policy:

Concepts, Methods and Policy Practices

Early Career Researchers Conference (ECC)

21 – 23 September 2022

Dortmund, Germany

The European Capital of Innovation

Call for Papers

In recent years, a new understanding of innovation has been discussed worldwide. This understanding focuses on the importance of innovations in overcoming major societal challenges. Furthermore, there is a growing conviction that social innovations make an important contribution to overcoming these challenges (cf. Howaldt et al. 2019), claiming that only through the change of social practice can necessary transformations succeed. But what does the term social innovation mean, and how can they best be conceptualised? Why are social innovations increasingly becoming the focus of attention, and what opportunities and challenges do they pose for scientific research and innovation policy? How can social innovations be supported in the context of much needed broader transformations? What is the meaning of social innovation for recent ambitions in STI policies (mission and transformation)?

Since the Second World War, Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) policy has been largely focused on technological innovations for economic growth. This situation has changed in recent years (Schot and Steinmueller 2018).With a growing awareness of ‘limits to growth’ and concerns about climate change, sustainability concerns have become more and more prominent in STI policy and a broader understanding of innovation has emerged. The recent ‘Guidebook for the preparation of science, technology and innovation (STI) for SDGs roadmaps’ prepared by the United Nations Task Force, for instance, underlines the importance of a broad understanding of innovation beyond techno-economic innovations (United Nations Inter-Agency Task Team on Science, Technology and Innovation for the SDGs und European Commission, Joint Research Centre 2021).

Therefore, political interest in social innovation is growing worldwide (e.g. Geels et al. 2019). Social innovations and socially innovative initiatives are omnipresent. Studies of social innovations are booming and cover the entire globe (Howaldt et al. 2019; van der Have and Rubalcaba 2016). Due to the broad understanding and usage of the concept, one finds social innovations – understood as deliberate changes of social practices with the intention of reaching a certain goal (cf. Howaldt and Schwarz 2010) – in a large variety of contexts, ranging from topics of climate change research to urban development and urban agriculture, from health to social inclusion and education. This broad thematic range underlines the importance of better understanding social innovations and social innovation ecosystems for sustainable development.

Since the 1980s, new concepts have emerged in international innovation research that consider social innovations as an independent type of innovation and make them accessible as an object of empirical investigation. The conceptual debate has intensified ever since, and progress has been made in developing a concept of social innovation grounded in social theory and elaborating the significance of the concept in the context of processes of social change (Howaldt and Schwarz 2021; Pel et al. 2020). Similarly, the topic has been linked to the overarching discussion on the fundamental reorientation of innovation policy (Larrue 2021; Wanzenbröck et al. 2020; Wittmann et al. 2021; Schot and Steinmueller, 2018; Edler and Fagerberg 2017; Mazzucato 2018). In this context, the contours of a new understanding of innovation are becoming discernible (Howaldt and Schwarz 2021). The opportunities and challenges of introducing social innovations into the framework of a comprehensive innovation policy will be discussed at the conference.

Accordingly, this ECC offers the opportunity to discuss the future role of social innovation in STI policies from different angles. In particular, we welcome submissions that address (but are not necessarily limited to) the following areas:

  • State of the art of social innovation research
  • Social innovation and transformation
  • Social innovation and new strands of STI Policy
  • Diffusion mechanisms of social innovations and the role of STI Policy
  • Interactions between social innovation policies from different policy fields (environment, energy) and STI
  • Innovation ecosystems, governance models and infrastructures for social innovation (science, society and policy interface)
  • Evaluation, assessment and impacts of social innovation and social innovation policies
  • Interaction between social and technological innovations to address 21st century challenges

Conference structure and format:

The conference will offer a varied programme, including paper presentation sessions, keynote talks, policy and practitioners panel, a conference award, networking sessions, social activities and conference dinner.

Early career researchers can choose one of the two following options to present their work: 1) full paper presentation (15-minute presentation followed by a discussion) or 2) speed talk or poster presentation (5-minute pitches, followed by discussion in break-out groups). The audience is expected (and encouraged) to actively participate in the discussion. For each full paper, a senior and a junior (early career) discussant will prepare direct feedback to the presenter.

This Early Career Conference addresses the guiding theme “Social Innovation Policy: Concepts, Methods and Policy Practices”. The conference is organized in streams according to the above thematic fields.

The conference will take place in person in Dortmund, Germany (if possible).

Anticipated list of speakers/teachers:

  • Jakob Edler / Katrin Ostertag (Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI, Karlsruhe)
  • Jürgen Howaldt / Christoph Kaletka (TU Dortmund University, Faculty of Social Science, Social Research Center sfs)
  • Julia Wittmayer (Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences ESSB, Rotterdam)
  • Klaus Schuch (Centre for Social Innovation ZSI, Vienna)
  • Judith Terstriep (Institute for Work and Technology IAT, Gelsenkirchen)
  • Mike Asquith (European Environmental Agency, Copenhagen)

Registration, fees and accommodation:

  • Registration:
    • Free for Eu-SPRI/ESSI members
    • 250€ for non-Eu-SPRI/ESSI members
  • Accommodation (2 nights), lunch and dinner included
  • Travel expenses will not be covered (a limited number of grants for widening countries’ participants will be provided upon request)

Paper submission (instructions & deadlines):

Early career researchers interested in participating in this ECC must submit an extended abstract (750 to 1,000 words, including key references) as well as a short motivation letter (1-2 paragraphs, max 1 page) no later than 16 May 2022 via email to:

Rick Hölsgens:

The decision will be communicated to the authors by the 7th of June 2022. If accepted, (draft) full papers must be submitted 3 weeks prior to the conference, i.e. 31st of August (speed talk submissions only need to submit their presentation as pdf).

Evaluation and selection criteria of submissions is based on academic quality, thematic relevance and motivation.

Time table:

  • May 16, 2022 – Deadline for extended abstracts (750 – 1,000 words)
  • June 7, 2022 – Notification of acceptance
  • August 31, 2022 – Deadline for (draft) full papers (5000 – 7000 words) (or slides in the case of speed talks)
  • September 21-23, 2022 – Conference


In case of any question, please contact the local organising team: Dr. Rick Hölsgens at:

Scientific and Organising Committee

Prof. Dr. Jakob Edler
Prof. Dr. Jürgen Howaldt
Dr. Rick Hölsgens
Dr. Katrin Ostertag
Tanja Kaufmann
Dr. Karina Maldonado-Mariscal
Dr. Klaus Schuch
Dr. Judith Terstriep
Dr. Julia Wittmayer
Marthe Zirngiebl


Edler, J.; Fagerberg, J. (2017). Innovation Policy: What, why, and how. Oxford Review of Economic Policy 44 (1), 2-23.

Geels, Frank W.; Turnheim, Bruno; Asquith, Mike; Kern, Florian; Kivimaa, Paula (2019). Sustainability transitions. Policy and practice. European Environment Agency. Copenhagen (EEA Report, 9/2019).

Howaldt, J.; Kaletka, C.; Schröder, A.; Zirngiebl, M. (Eds.) (2019). Atlas of social innovation: 2nd volume: A world of new practices. Oekom Verlag.

Howaldt, J.; Schwarz, M. (2021). Social innovation and social change. In J. Howaldt; C. Kaletka; A. Schröder (Eds.), Research agenda for social innovation. Edward Elgar Publishing

Howaldt, J.; Schwarz, M. (2010). Social Innovation: Concepts, research fields and international trends.

Larrue, P. (2021). The design and implementation of mission-oriented innovation policies: A new systemic policy approach to address societal challenges. OECD Science, Technology and Industry Policy Papers.

Mazzucato, M. (2018). Mission-oriented research & innovation in the European Union: A problem solving approach to fuel innovation-led growth. Brussels. European Commission. Directorate General for Research and Innovation.

Schot, Johan; Steinmueller, Edward (2018). Three frames for innovation policy. R&D, system of innovation and transformative change. Research Policy 47, 1554–1567.

United Nations Inter-Agency Task Team on Science, Technology and Innovation for the SDGs; European Commission, Joint Research Centre (2021): Guidebook for the preparation of Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) for SDGs Roadmaps. Luxembourg: Publication Office of the European Union. Available online:

Van der Have, Robert P.; Rubalcaba, Luis (2016). Social innovation research: An emerging area of innovation studies? Research Policy 45 (9), 1923–1935. DOI: 10.1016/j.respol.2016.06.010.

Wanzenböck, I.; Wesseling, J.; Frenken, K.; Hekkert, M.; Weber, K. (2020). A framework for mission-oriented innovation policy: Alternative pathways through the problem–solution space. Science and Public Policy 47 (4), pp. 474–489.

Wittmann, F.; Hufnagl, M.; Lindner, R.; Roth, F.; Edler, J. (2021). Governing varieties of mission-oriented innovation policies: A new typology. Science and Public Policy, 48 (5), 727-738