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PHDINN903 Understanding and Exploring Innovation

Course description for academic year 2020/2021

Contents and structure

The aim of this course is to give an overview of the state-of-the-art within the research field of innovation. The course focuses on ontological and epistemological issues pertaining to the concept of innovation and explores the multiple understandings of innovation; how the concept of innovation is defined; how innovation is analytically framed and empirically approached; geographies of innovation; and how innovation research informs policymakers and other stakeholders. These and related ongoing issues are addressed by the PhD students together with established innovation researchers. The course entails approximately 1 month of work. The following are elements of the course: a 3-day workshop that combines lectures and seminars; an essay writing process of approximately 3 weeks; and a 45-minute oral presentation of the written essay.

The course will provide state-of-the-art knowledge, skills and competence in the research field of innovation. We investigate ‘innovation as exploration’ and the workshop covers lectures on theoretical perspectives and core concepts that are central to innovation research, thereby providing an overview of the field including approaches to responsible innovation, the geography of innovation systems, actor network theory, clusters and clustering, innovation policy, green innovation and innovation in the public sector. In addition, the workshop includes seminars where the relationships between relevant theories and the individual PhD projects will be discussed. The seminars will function as a springboard for the writing process of an essay relevant to some of the theoretical, methodological and ethical questions in the student’s PhD project. The essay should be closely related to the topic of the thesis, not exceed 5,000 words, and must be based on a literature list of approximately 500 pages.

Learning Outcome

Upon completion of the course, the candidate should be able to:


  • provide an overview of the general academic debates in the research field of exploring innovation;
  • reflect critically upon the theoretical and conceptual foundations of the multiple understandings of innovation in the field of research;
  • describe the main methodological approaches and their theoretical and conceptual underpinnings currently applied in the research field of exploring innovation;
  • describe spatial aspects of innovation and reflect upon the role of geography in facilitation of innovation
  • reflect critically upon the tangible and intangible societal implications of innovation; and
  • write an essay on the theoretical, methodological and/or ethical issues related to his/her own PhD project.


  • identify the theoretical perspectives and conceptual foundations of the research field of exploring innovation;
  • recognize the methodological approach(es) of a given study exploring innovation and its theoretical and conceptual underpinnings;
  • structure analyses of the tangible and intangible societal implications of innovation;
  • develop his/her own research ideas in close collaboration with established innovation researchers; and
  • apply state-of-the-art knowledge in the research field of exploring innovation in his/her own PhD project.

General competence

  • assess the applicability and limitations of the theoretical and conceptual foundations in the research field of exploring innovation;
  • discuss and relate recent developments and research trends within the research field of exploring innovation; and
  • identify central scientific venues and journals within the research field of exploring innovation.

Entry requirements

General admission criteria for the PhD programme.

Teaching methods

The course is organized into three modules and consists of a combination of lectures, colloquia, seminars, essay writing and oral presentation of the essay.

Module 1 - Theories of Innovation

Lectures, colloquia and seminars are organized in an intensive 3-day workshop. The lectures cover the state-of-the-art in the research field. Colloquia will be arranged in which students discuss how their PhD project links to the state-of-the-art in the research field. The seminars will be based on these colloquia, and students will present an idea for an essay on the intangible-tangible nature of the processes of innovation.

Module 2 - Essay Exploring Innovation

The end of student seminars, as part of the workshop, marks the point of departure for an essay writing process. Based on the seminars and in collaboration with those responsible for the course, PhD students will propose a topic for their individual essay on exploring innovation.

Module 3 - Essay Seminar

Candidates will give an oral presentation of their essay in an open session at their campus/department.

Module 1 - Lectures, Colloquia, Seminars

Lectures; Colloquia; Seminars

Module 2 - Essay

Approximately 3 full weeks of work for writing the essay.

Module 3 - Oral dissemination

Essay presentation of 25 minutes, followed by a 20-minute discussion.

Students are expected to use at least 1 hour for preparation and debriefing for every hour of lecture, and 2 hours of preparation for every hour of colloquium and seminar. In addition, the essay writing is estimated to take about 90 hours of work, for a total of 140 hours.