Innovations are ubiquitous in nowadays societies. Also in the field of spatial planning they became a factor – not least since ever changing and more diversifying wicked problems in urban and regional development call for creative solutions. What can be observed, however, is that planners often do not (at least in initial phases) label their novel approaches as ‘novel' or ‘innovative' by themselves. This raises the general question of what an innovation actually is or, respectively, of how the term can be understood. In the conference, novel approaches in planning will be conceptualised as social innovations, whereby social innovations are conceived of as novel practices, novel ways of processing or newly created ‘products' (i) which are strikingly different compared to previous ones, (ii) which in the perspective of the actors offer ‘better' solutions than earlier ones, (iii) which have - to a certain extent - been institutionalised and (iv) which already have spread spatially, i.e. which show translocal mobility. Basically it is hard to say to which extent a novel way of proceeding must be strikingly different from a previous one to be considered as ‘innovative'. We must take into account that despite the need of being socially different, an innovation must also to a certain degree connect to something known to meet social acceptance. Therefore, it applies for most of the innovative approaches that they are ‘relative', rather than ‘absolute' novelties, which means that they are characterised by new combinations of already known things.
While innovation research has long traditions in different disciplines, there is however only little knowledge on the characteristics of innovation processes in the field of spatial planning. In particular, we know little about how innovative approaches emerge in this field, under which conditions they emerge, how they further develop, which types of actors are involved and which strategies they persue, how and under which conditions the approaches become institutionalised, how they spread, etc. It is also an empirical question in how far innovation processes develop similarly or differently in various fields of spatial planning (or in various locations). Not least, it is of interest which theoretical approaches can be used to conceptualise innovation processes in spatial planning. How far must concepts, e.g. on (social) innovations and on policy mobility, be modified in order to adequately describe the empirical processes? Which other theoretical concepts are useful in this research field?
The conference aims at addressing this gap by gathering recognised international researchers from disciplines such as from planning, political science, geography and sociology and by organising both theoretical and empirical discussions. As an initial step, concepts of innovation and of policy mobility will be reflected. Against this background, empirical examples for novel approaches in four core areas of spatial planning will be discussed: urban design, urban redevelopment with a focus on temporary uses, neighbourhood development, and regional development. In concluding discussions within the sessions as well as in a final conclusion at the end of the conference similarities and differences of the examples in the various spatial planning fields will be reflected.