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Project information

Project team

Thilo LangFranziska Görmar


Leibniz Institute of Ecological Urban and Regional Development (project coordination); Institute for Transformation, Housing and Socio-Spatial Development of the Zittau/Görlitz University of Applied Sciences; Institute for Social Innovation, Berlin; Humboldt University Berlin, Thaer-Institute of Agricultural and Horticultural Sciences

Duration of project

11/2022 – 10/2025

Funded by

Federal Ministry of Education and Research

Further information

Prof Dr Thilo Lang
+49 341 600 55-159

Building transformative capacities to activate regional innovation systems – ATRAKTIV

Sub-project: Transformative change from a Geography of innovation perspective

Innovations are an important driving force of social change. In view of current fundamental crises and challenges such as climate change, species extinction, digitalisation or demographic change, far-reaching changes are needed more than ever. The extent to which cities and regions are able to shape the processes needed to overcome these crises depends largely on their transformative capacities.

This project, funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, investigates transformative innovation systems in regions that are characterised as structurally weak. Transformative innovation systems are region-specific networks of actors and institutions that help to shape transformative capacities and influence the development and diffusion of transformative innovations. Contrary to a traditional, technological view of innovation, the project is based on a broad understanding of innovation. The focus is on the question of what social innovations associated with sustainable and public good-oriented ways of thinking, acting and organising mean for the capacity of regions to respond to change.

ATRAKTIV follows an approach of cooperative project management in which the partners work together at eye level. The division of labour primarily concerns the responsibility for the empirical work in the case regions. Four rather peripheral, rural regions without a strong economic centre were selected: the districts of Dithmarschen in Schleswig-Holstein (coordination: ISInova), Görlitz/Oberlausitz in Saxony (coordination: HSZG) and the Kyffhäuserkreis (coordination: IfL) as well as the Saale-Holzland-Kreis in Thuringia (coordination: HU Berlin). Together with local actors from politics, administration, science, business and civil society, three overarching goals are being pursued:

  • Firstly, the project will develop a new theoretical framework for assessing societal innovation capacities based on knowledge from transformation studies, geography of innovation, sociology and engagement research. The focus is on enabling regions to shape transformative change successfully and in a socially just manner.
  • Secondly, on the basis of and in cooperation with the regions, it will empirically assess which actor-related, spatial and temporal innovation patterns and dynamics can be observed in accordance with the developed framework.
  • Thirdly, the project develops specific governance approaches, methods and instruments together with the regional actors in order to build capacities for the activation of transformative innovation systems. Furthermore, regions are supported in taking the first steps towards a new innovation policy.

To elaborate these goals, the project follows a theory-driven, comparative case study approach, using a mix of quantitative and qualitative social research methods.

Transformative change from a geography of innovation perspective

The IfL's sub-project deals with transformative change from a Geography of innovation perspective. The focus is on actor and narrative analysis as well as the dynamics of actors, space and time in transformative innovation systems. Narratives are seen as important aspects of transformative innovation systems, which transmit corresponding values, norms and beliefs and thus create a common identity. The IfL's sub-project is supported in the Kyffhäuserkreis by the project "Engagierte Stadt Sondershausen" and the volunteer agency as well as by 3D-Schilling GmbH.


Görmar, Franziska / Rothe, Phillip / Van den Branden, Kristof (2023): Transformative Nachhaltigkeit: Ein Blick auf die Wirtschaft im Kyffhäuserkreis. In: IfL-Blog [Weblog], 28. August 2023. Online-Publikation: Abrufdatum: 29.08.2023