What is the role of social innovations?

In the context of growing dynamics of change, social innovations are becoming more important. They describe the creation, enforcement and spreading of new social practices – which can but do not have to – be linked to new technologies. They manifest themselves in different forms in our society and are – like technological innovations – important drivers of social change: they change the way in which we live together, work, consume, distribute wealth or deal with crises.

In recent years, social innovations have become more important in the research at Fraunhofer ISI. As new actors and organizations have increasingly influenced the landscape of innovation and this process goes together with new social practices. Scientists analyzed which new social practices come about and how they affect our society. How do they contribute to the change and reorientation of the added value?



The joint project funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research supports medium-sized companies, which actively shape digital change. Digital technologies offer potential solutions, but as well as technical development, a “corporate cultural transformation” is needed. Using concrete examples from the sectors mechanical engineering and medical technology the project elaborates on company specific digitalization strategies, which also look at organizational and cultural conditions of the operational change.

Innovative models of circular economy in the textile industry (Wear2Share)

Innovative models of circular economy in the clothing industry no longer offer clothes to buy but to rent for a certain length of time. Because particularly clothes for small children or fashionable ladies' clothes are often not worn for very long. Wear2Share investigates whether and how such business models lead to more sustainable consumption and whether they are suitable for mass consumption in the long term. Also the project is to drive the development of more sustainable clothing for such rental models.

Social Innovation in Energy Transitions (SONNET)

Social innovations in the energy sector are said to enable faster transitions to sustainable energy systems. Initiatives such as energy cooperatives and prosuming peer groups (people producing their own energy), are becoming more common and have attracted interest from researchers and policy makers alike.

The research project SONNET (Social Innovation in Energy Transitions), will work with a range of stakeholders from across energy initiatives in the community, industry, academia, government, councils, and local actors to create a better understanding of social innovations in the energy sector, critically assessing the success, contributions and future potential of social innovation. Through developing practical recommendations and tools, the project aims to build the innovative capacities and strong networks of social innovation and energy actors, strengthen their networks, identify new market opportunities for social innovation in the energy sector and enable multiple actors to increase their engagement with social innovations.

Coordinating scientifically the funding priority “Sustainable management: Synthesis and transfer economy” (NaWiKo)

Within the project NaWiKo a team of the Ecologic Institute coordinates together with Fraunhofer ISI and the Research Center for Environmental Politics at the Free University of Berlin a total of 30 projects with a focus on sustainable management funded by the Federal Ministry for Education and Research. The multitude of topics of the 30 funded projects creates a large potential of thematic and methodological synergies, which have to be explored. That is the purpose of the project NaWiKo.

Evaluation of the funding line “Social innovations for quality of life in old age“ of the programme research at universities of applied sciences of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research  

The funded projects which are part of the funding line SILQUA-FH aim to make a contribution to “Maintain the participation of older people in professional and social life to improve their quality of life“. The task of the evaluation carried out on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) was to investigate the funded projects as regards their content and structural impacts achieved and to formulate recommendations for action for the further development of the funding line. Some of the methods used were document analyses, interviews, online surveys and workshops.