Transdisciplinarity and Transition


Course Objective

The course aims to pursue the following learning objectives:
• to acquire knowledge regarding transition theories, e.g., multi-level
perspective theory;
• to acquire knowledge regarding transdisciplinary approaches, e.g.,
interactive learning and action approach;
• to acquire specific skills to collect data interactively, e.g.
in-depth, semi-structured interviews;
• to master various analytical tools, e.g. causal analysis, actor
analysis, fact-value framing, swot analysis;
• to understand wider contextual challenges in transition processes;

Course Content

Innovation often implies a troublesome and risky process starting with a
bright idea, via a small niche innovation towards a competitive
position. This course focuses on the analytical skills necessary to
guide and advice a niche innovation. Guiding and advising implies that
you are aware of the social forces prohibiting a breakthrough and how
to identify and implement tailor made solutions to deal with these
Therefore, this course introduces you to several theories related to
innovation and societal forces, and we will offer you training with a
toolbox of various analytical methods to explore the specific hurdles
of a given project, in order to design a tailor made advice.

Little by little, academic research reveals the complexity of societal
mechanisms behind transitions, e.g., cultural aspects, psychological
aspects, structures of states, institutions and multinationals.
Transdisciplinarity is an emerging discipline in which research
approaches and analytical methods are developed to connect relevant
parts of different disciplines to solve complex processes, including
transitions. Transitions are referred to as complex because different
stakeholder groups are involved (e.g. industry, academia, consumers and
NGOs) and these stakeholders often have different visions on what is
"best" for society.

On the basis of experiences with large innovative consortia (Genomic
Initiative - ecological genomics, Sustainable innovation/brain imaging,
BE-Basic/synthetic biology) you will learn all about the do’s and don’ts
of the Interactive learning and Action approach, how to use an actor
analysis to delineate you allies and enemies, how to use semi-structured
interviews to deepen your understanding of reasons behind problems, how
to construct a causal analysis to understand the complexity of the
problems you face, and how a SWOT analysis can help to identify
strategic priorities.

Parallel to the lectures you will work in a group on an advice regarding
an innovation, conducting interviews with key players and analysing the
complexity of interests.

Teaching Methods

In order to achieve the learning objectives, several forms of tuition
are used including lectures, training sessions, project work and
self-study. Please note that presence during the training sessions and
project meetings is mandatory. Attendance to the lectures is highly
recommended since relying on self-study alone has proven to be
insufficient to pass the exams.

Method of Assessment

The course grade is based on the project (group and individual) and the
exam. All of the following need to be concluded with the grade of 5.5 or
higher to pass the course.

Team project report (50%)
Team project presentation (10%)
Individual attitude and skills assessment (10%)
Individual exam (30%)


Articles and book chapters are made available via Canvas

Target Audience

Students following the Science, Business and Innovation track within the
Master’s Chemistry and Physics at the Faculty of Exact Sciences, VU

Additional Information

This course mimics the activities of an innovation task force. This
implies 100% use of the available time (=20 hours a week) to carry out
data collection, literature study, brainstorming, various forms of
system analysis, validation of preliminary result with external experts,
and finally presenting a transition strategy. You will need to use and
integrate all knowledge you acquired before.

General Information

Course Code X_430604
Credits 6 EC
Period P2
Course Level 400
Language of Tuition English
Faculty Faculty of Science
Course Coordinator dr. R. de Wildt-Liesveld MSc
Examiner dr. R. de Wildt-Liesveld MSc
Teaching Staff dr. R. de Wildt-Liesveld MSc
dr. B.J. Regeer

Practical Information

You need to register for this course yourself

Last-minute registration is available for this course.

Teaching Methods Seminar, Study Group, Lecture
Target audiences

This course is also available as: