Du er nå inne på tidligere NILFs nettsted som er en del av www.nibio.no. 1. juli 2015 ble Norsk institutt for bioøkonomi (NIBIO) opprettet som en fusjon av Bioforsk, Norsk institutt for landbruksøkonomisk forskning (NILF) og Norsk institutt for skog og landskap.
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Grounded Innovation Research

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Figure: our grounded innovation approach




 To gain a better understanding of the role and functioning of the relevant institutions in different contexts, (through action-research and participatory methods)

a. Using the tools and methods of social science, and involving all relevant disciplines, to investigate the emergence of new institutions in the broad sphere of ‘bioeconomy’ based on green (and related waste) resources;
b. to develop data and understanding of the functioning and impact of these new institutions;
c. to understand and foster the types of institution that best contribute to a development of the bioeconomy which leads to simultaneous positive economic, social, as well as environmental outcomes without trade-offs (ie ‘sustainable development’) and, in particular, sustainable rural development.

2. To foster institutional, logistical, technical and other forms of innovation related to the use of biological resources linked to forestry, farming, their associated value-added enterprises and chains, and rural communities in order to simultaneously meet economic, social and environmental goals (the ‘triple bottom line’ which represents the overarching objective of Horizon-2020 and the European 2020 strategy in general).

3. To raise the standard of national research on this and related issues concerning bioeconomy development and its impacts on rural regions, and to participate in national and international networks and research projects in this field.

4. To improve the dissemination of research findings and attendant debates in all media, including www, twitter, facebook, and other social media as well as in books, high quality scientific articles, press articles, and radio/TV.

5. To work with governmental, business and civil society institutions to improve the economic, social and environmental impacts of the emerging bioeconomy on rural as well as urban regions and people.




“Institutions are the conventions, norms and formally sanctioned rules of a society. They provide expectations, stability and meaning essential to human existence and coordination. Institutions regularize life, support values and produce and protect interests” (Vatn, 1995). They can be ‘formal’ in the sense of being legally defined and potentially enforced (law) and ‘informal’ (trust, cooperation, and more generally values and norms of behavior), but this distinction quickly breaks down when we realize that formal institutions also contain informal elements – as in, for example, the social content of markets, property rights or money. As anthropologists Chris Hann & Keith Hart (2011:51) argue ..
“Human institutions everywhere are founded on the unity of individual and society, freedom and obligation, self-interest and concern for others. Modern capitalism and economics rest on an unsustainable attachment to one of these poles and it will take a social revolution to restore a humane balance.”

Bryden & Hart’s study of differential economic performance in 16 rural counties of Europe between 1999 and 2002 showed that a range of institutions were very important in explaining medium term economic performance in different contexts. ((Bryden & Hart, J K eds. 2006: 13-14). Bryden, Brox and Riddoch’s comparative study of long term development of Scotland and Norway since 1800 (forthcoming, EUP, March 2015) also shows the critical importance of emergence and development of key institutions for understanding the large differences in the processes of political, economic and social development between these two countries in the past 200+ years.

In dealing with ‘green’ natural resources – bioresources – we are dealing in many cases with ‘joint’ public-private resources, where use for private purposes also impacts formal and informal public use. Bryden and Gezilius (2013 and 2015f), and Bryden et al (2015f) – following Polanyi -  argue that Governmental or public institutions are the only institutions that can maintain, enlarge, regulate and enforce public rights to public goods, even when these are ‘joint’ – and it follows that public institutions warrant a particular focus when studying bioresources. However, all other human institutions are also likely to be important in cases such as increasing intensities of use, changes in the balance of public and private ownership and use rights, and the like.

Innovation and Social Innovation

We start to define Innovation as simply ‘new ways of doing things’ and in that sense they differ from ‘inventions’ since they most often involve applying or adapting existing ideas, products, services etc to new or related problems, or in new contexts. To Wikipedia, “Innovation is a new idea, device or process. Innovation can be viewed as the application of better solutions that meet new requirements, inarticulated needs, or existing market needs. This is accomplished through more effective products, processes, services, technologies, or ideas that are readily available to markets, governments and society. The term innovation can be defined as something original and, as a consequence, new, that "breaks into" the market or society.
“While a novel device is often described as an innovation, in economics, management science, and other fields of practice and analysis innovation is generally considered to be a process that brings together various novel ideas in a way that they have an impact on society.
“Innovation differs from invention in that innovation refers to the use of a better and, as a result, novel idea or method, whereas invention refers more directly to the creation of the idea or method itself. Innovation differs from improvement in that innovation refers to the notion of doing something different rather than doing the same thing better.”

According to Wikipedia, social innovations are new strategies, concepts, ideas and organizations that meet social needs of all kinds — from working conditions and education to community development and health — that extend and strengthen civil society. Social innovation includes the social processes of innovation, such as open source methods and techniques and also the innovations which have a social purpose — like microcredit or distance learning. We are stretching this definition to all innovations with social goals, which in our understanding must include innovations aiming for a ‘triple bottom line’.

The key ideas that we are working on can be called ‘towards a new innovation paradigm’ and they concern (a) the notion of ‘triple bottom line’ accounting from management studies (b) the ‘3Ds’ from the new Sussex manifesto of STEPS (SPRU and IDS) which focus on the Direction of change that Innovations are aimed at, the Distributional outcomes or implications, and the Diversity of approaches and solutions, and (c) the human rights issues that are critical around land-related and other resources  which are ‘basic needs’ of humanity. We incorporate these ideas and discourses into our concepts of ‘grounded’ or ‘inclusive’ innovation. See also
- Bryden J, Gezelius S S & Refsgaard 2013: Governing innovation for sustainable development: Designing creative institutions. NILF-notat 2013-5
- Bryden J & Gezelius S S: Ethics and institutions for sustainable development (forthcoming 2015).

“Bryden and Gezelius argue that if we are to move towards more ‘sustainable’ innovation then  “innovation systems, especially those involving resources covering people's basic needs, , should look beyond science, technology and competitiveness, and consider the needs and rights of the present and future people whose livelihoods depend on the resources in question. Consequently, empowering marginalised and unempowered stakeholders would often be a key task of innovation systems for sustainable development.”

This then provides the link with ‘social innovation’.

In our applied research on the bioeconomy, including water management, waste management, food waste, bioenergy, the forest-based bioeconomy, and new approaches to food production, value chains and related issues we also use an ‘innovation systems’ approach (following Lundvall, Freeman and others) involving all stakeholders including social groups, civil society organisations, businesses, cooperatives and social enterprises, researchers, and local as well as national government to create grounded innovation ‘platforms’. We focus on local and regional grounded innovation platforms because our work to date tells us these are the most relevant for rural people and rural regions.

Although the ‘bioeconomy’ is wider than this, our focus at NILF is first on forest-agricultural- and other land-based resources and related bioeconomy chains that transform these natural and renewable resources into other goods and services. In addition, we are also interested in the use of biomass-related waste, including, for example, farm waste, food and forest processing waste, food waste, and human waste whether in combination with other bio-resources or not.  At present we are not directly involved with marine based resources or their transformation, but this may be included in future, especially through collaboration with relevant research institutes.

Food Waste projects

Water management projects




Foto: Hanna Zajaczkowski Gogstad

Project leader/ contact   Karen Refsgaard
Employer   The Grounded Innovation Research Program is financed with NILFs basic research funding from the Research Council of Norway.
Time frame   2012-2015


Updated 01.12.2014


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