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PHDINN907 Innovation in the Public Sector

Course description for academic year 2023/2024

Contents and structure

This course provides state- of-the-art knowledge, skills and competence in the research field of innovation in the public sector. Public sector innovations are often institutional and involve the creation and institutionalization of new practices. Institutional innovations are socially constructed and transform the way we think about public organizations and their practices.

This course will explain how comprehensive governance innovations and concepts are developed and spread. Focus is also on the current trend towards collaborative, cross-sector organizational forms and tools for public sector innovations. The course focuses on innovation in public service production and delivery, with special attention to health- and welfare services. The role of professions and professionals as drivers of change, together with the impact of new technologies and organizational forms on innovative practices will receive particular attention. The course will stress processes of innovation, exploring how various actors (individuals, groups, organizations, and corporations) have a role in origin, refutation, spread, transformation, and implementation of innovations.

The research on governance innovations relates to issues such as new forms of organization and leadership in the public sector, cross-sectoral collaboration and exchange of rules and norms between sectors. Questions posed are; what distinguishes innovations in public sector from innovations within the market? What are the potential roles of voluntary actors and civil society in co-creation with public sector and the market? How do such innovations come into existence and under what conditions? How do they spread passively by diffusion or actively by dissemination, and how are innovations spread into the localities?

Questions asked in relation to public service provision and service innovations are: how do service innovations involve knowledge development and changes in professional roles? What factors may hinder or promote implementation and sustainability of innovation? What benefits or drawbacks may result for different stakeholders in specific service innovation processes in the short or long term? What drivers or barriers led to the implementation of specific technology?

Learning Outcome

Upon completion of the course, the candidate:


  • is at the forefront of knowledge within his/her academic field concerning features and processes of public sector innovation and service production, their origin, spread and implementation in space and time;
  • understands the distinctive features and processes of public sector innovation and service production, their origin, spread and implementation;
  • can evaluate critically the expediency and application of innovation processes and the way in which they are geographically, institutionally and professionally embedded;
  • can explain the relevance of different innovation types and complex combinations of types of innovation in the public sector, with and without the interplay of private (for-profit and non-profit) actors;
  • can present state-of-the-art knowledge of the field and give an overview of the current academic debates on innovative governance and innovative service production;
  • can discuss critically the theoretical and methodological approaches used in the field; and
  • can contribute to the development of new knowledge, theories, methods, interpretations and forms of documentation in the field.


  • can recognize and evaluate the theoretical and methodological approach(es) of a given study in the field of innovative governance, institution building and professional development;
  • can reflect and communicate on the theoretical, methodological and/or ethical issues related to innovative governance;
  • can develop his/her own research ideas in collaboration with established innovation researchers;
  • can formulate a research design for a project in the field of innovative governance and public service production; and
  • can carry out his/her own research and scholarly work to a high international standard, handle complex academic issues and challenge established knowledge and practice in the field.

General competence

  • can assess the applicability and limitations of theoretical and conceptual foundations in the research field;
  • can identify the needs and challenges for new research, and for the development of innovative practices, in the field of innovative governance and public service delivery, including ethical assessment;
  • can manage complex and interdisciplinary projects that involve collaboration with other researchers and practitioners in the field;
  • can communicate his/her own research and development work at academic conferences, in journals and to the public; and
  • can participate in academic and other debates in the field, both nationally and internationally.

Entry requirements


Recommended previous knowledge


Teaching methods

The course is organized in two modules and consists of lectures, seminars and ending with a seminar where students present their exam. During the seminar in the first module, the students can start exploring themes from the course curriculum related to their PhD project which can be presented in their exam.

Compulsory learning activities



The students can choose between two exam forms: 1) either an opinion paper followed by a 20 min oral presentation, or 2) in the form of a poster, supplemented by an 20 min oral presentation of the poster. The exam is graded pass/fail by an internal committee.

Examination support material

All aids allowed

More about examination support material