Nature-Based Innovation Systems: A systemic literature review and dialogue between nature-based solutions and technological innovation sytems

R. P. J. M. Raven, A. P. N. van der Jagt, H. M. Dorst, H. A. C. Runhaar

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


In the sustainability transitions literature, technologies play a predominant role and are considered as critical components in societal transitions towards sustainability. However, the emerging discourse on nature-based solutions (NBS) for sustainability transitions raises the question to what extent current technology-oriented frameworks applied to understand transition processes can adequately account for activities of agents in the development and diffusion of NBS. In other words, can they account for non-technological or hybrid innovation systems critical to a sustainability transitions? This paper represents a first attempt to address this question by exploring the validity of the Technological Innovation System (TIS) approach in explaining nature-based innovations. To this end, the paper proposes a new concept – Nature-Based Innovation Systems (NBIS). On the basis of a systematic literature review on pathways to NBS development and diffusion we find both overlaps and differences between current understandings of TIS and NBIS. These differences can be attributed to the unique nature of NBS as place-based, living interventions that by definition need to deliver multifunctional benefits and can only do so through strong embeddedness in volatile social-ecological systems. We conclude that, although TIS and NBIS cannot be conceptually equated, applying NBIS alongside the TIS approach could lead to a more holistic understanding of sustainability transitions. Future research is needed to explore the role of the broader regime context on NBIS functioning, in particular for interventions at the interface of social, technological and ecological systems.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Event9th International Sustainability Transitions Conference 2018 - Manchester, United Kingdom
Duration: 12 Jun 201814 Jun 2018


Conference9th International Sustainability Transitions Conference 2018
Abbreviated titleIST 2018
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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