Opening design and innovation processes in agriculture: Insights from design and management sciences and future directions

Elsa T. Berthet, Gordon M. Hickey, Laurens Klerkx*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalEditorialAcademic

19 Citations (Scopus)


Research has identified an urgent need to renew agriculture's traditional design organization and foster more open, decentralized, contextualized and participatory approaches to design and innovation. While the concepts of co-design and co-innovation used in agriculture resemble features of open innovation, they may benefit from ‘inbound open innovation’ themselves through cross-fertilization with management studies, design science, science and technology studies, and organization studies. This special issue brings together different streams of research providing novel perspectives on co-design and co-innovation in agriculture, including methods, tools and organizations. It compares empirical experiences and theoretical advances to address a variety of issues (e.g., innovation ecosystems, collective design management, participatory design methods, affordances of system analysis tools and network leadership) that shed new light on co-design and co-innovation in support of sustainable agriculture and more broadly transitions towards a diversity of food systems and a circular bioeconomy. This introductory paper presents crosscutting insights and distills from these three directions for future research and practice in agricultural design and innovation: 1) Further opening design and innovation techniques and tools to better account for visual, auditory, tactile and olfactory expressions in evolving designs and what they afford users; 2) Further opening innovation networks in view of creating and stimulating integrative niches that can foster sustainability transitions, which also requires network managers instilling a reflexive stance of network members and broader awareness of power structures attached to organizational, sector and paradigmatic silos in agricultural systems; and 3) Further opening the range of innovation actors to include non-human actants to better account for the agency of the material and ecological.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-115
JournalAgricultural Systems
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2018


  • Actor-network theory
  • Affordances
  • Agricultural innovation systems
  • Bioeconomy
  • Boundary objects
  • Circular economy
  • Co-innovation
  • Design reasoning
  • Food systems
  • Interactive design
  • Materiality
  • Network management
  • Open innovation
  • Sustainability transitions

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