Innovation in Food Systems

Course content

This course introduces you to concepts, frameworks and tools from innovation management and design science.  You will apply these approaches to understand complex problems and design specific solutions to an innovation challenge in a food system context. More specifically, the course will give you an opportunity to engage in an innovation process aimed at designing technically feasible and socially acceptable change at the food system level and in collaboration with stakeholders.

In the course, we adopt an integrative approach based on systems thinking and action research perspectives to analyse problems and their contexts, develop solutions, validate solutions with stakeholders, and plan for implementation and evaluation innovation processes.

You will learn about the broader social context in which systems innovations take place, and how this context influences the innovation process. You will also learn how to manage the actual innovation process and consider how the immediate organisational context influences your process. Finally, you will be able to become a better practitioner through critical reflection on the experiences you gain during the course.

Specific topics addressed in the course involve: 1) innovation ecosystems, 2) sector characteristics of innovation (e.g., sector competitiveness characteristics and institutional factors), 3) types of innovation (e.g., open, closed, and participatory, 4) diffusion and adoption of innovation, 5) the influence of organisational factors (e.g., culture, structures, systems, and strategy, 6) types of innovation processes (e.g., stage gate models and systems innovation, and 7) process internal factors (e.g., team management, process management, leadership, planning), and 8) personal development (e.g., competence profile and reflective practice).



Msc Programme in Integrated Food Studies

Learning outcome

After participating in the course you will have acquired the following:


  • Know and understand theories of systems thinking, innovation systems, innovation processes, and innovation management.
  • Know and understand how different food systems, main actors and institutions influence innovation in food systems.
  • Understand the fundamental dynamics of interdisciplinary teamwork, team leadership, and stakeholder interaction in relation to innovation processes.



  • Ability to apply qualitative and quantitative sociological methods to analyze complex food systems related problems and develop innovative solutions societal problems.
  • Ability to design innovation processes based on systems thinking, action research, and innovation and design theories and methods while considering the influence of social context and organisational factors.
  • Ability to communicate (oral and in writing) and discuss innovation plans, processes and expected outcomes with different professionals and other stakeholders.



  • Can manage complex innovation processes based on an integrative approach in order to suggest and implement food system-level changes.    
  • Can organised, participate in and lead interdisciplinary teamwork addressing food system challenges.
  • Can critically reflect on own practice and identify relevant personal development needs.

We will use an action research approach as the general methodology for managing innovation and design processes in the course. The methodology comprises aspects such as: understanding and analysing the situation; exploring the situation through modelling and experimentation; discussing and deliberating the situation with stakeholders; and designing possible action to improve the situation and evaluate outcomes. During the course, you will work in teams and collaborate with stakeholders in order to develop a solving to a concrete food system challenge. In parallel with the teamwork, you will be exposed to relevant theories and methods in lectures and exercises. Guest lectures by food system practitioners will help us critically reflect on theories and practice.

Feedback: You will receive written and/or oral feedback on written exercises and reports during the course. We will also rely on peer-feedback from co-students. You will receive oral feedback from external stakeholders during feedback workshops and the final project presentation. You will receive oral feedback on the final report and after the oral exam.

It is recommended that students have a good understanding of alternative and mainstream food systems and have a basic understanding of social science research methodologies.

Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Feedback by final exam (In addition to the grade)
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Oral examination, 20 minutes
Written assignment
The exam consist of 3 elements:
• Innovation process reflection paper (written paper) (35%)
• Individual learning reflection paper (written paper) (15%)
• 20-minute oral exam without preparation (50%)

Each part-exam is assessed and weighted individually, and the final grade is determined based on this. All part-exams need to be passed to pass the overall exam. Previously passed part-exams may be reused in a re-exam.
Only certain aids allowed

All aids allowed for the written papers. No aids allowed for the oral exam.

Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
two internal examiners
Criteria for exam assessment

In order to obtain the grade 12, the student should convincingly and accurately demonstrate the knowledge, skills and competences described under Learning Outcome.

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 25
  • Preparation
  • 40
  • Practical exercises
  • 21
  • Field Work
  • 5
  • Project work
  • 100
  • Guidance
  • 5
  • Exam
  • 10
  • English
  • 206