Innovations are often narrowly conceptualised in terms of technological advancements or market entries. The more recent notion of 'social innovations', in contrast, denotes innovations of a socio-political nature that have a normative agenda, setting them apart from the economic sphere. IRS researchers studying novel social practices deliberately attempt to overcome compartmentalised (i.e. technological, economic, social) conceptualisations of innovations, which are widespread today. The scholars themselves do not ascribe a normative quality to social innovations. They do, however,  recognise that the 'value' of an innovation is negotiated as an innovation develops. IRS researchers regard innovations as socially and culturally embedded processes characterised by a (re)combination of both new and old technologies, business models and socio-cultural practices. IRS studies on social innovations focus on various aspects: the role of spatial pioneers regarding modifications to rural and urban spaces, the appropriation and informal use of urban space beyond existing plans, the emergence of new political and planning practices, and the genesis of novel forms of citizens participation in processes of research and development.

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12. February | 2021

Coworking spaces, FabLabs and Maker Spaces have so far been predominantly found in large cities. But such "collaborative workspaces" are increasingly being established in rural areas, where they provide access to digital technologies and other work resources. A new EU-funded Innovative Training Network (ITN) is now studying the effects of such places. The IRS is involved with its research department "Dynamics of Economic Spaces". more info

16. July | 2019

Recently, the federal commission on “Equal Living Conditions” reported considerable regional inequalities in Germany. Rural regions, in particular, suffer from poor education and employment opportunities, lower incomes and shortages in the provision of public and private services. These observations, however, are not specific for Germany. Many rural regions across Europe face challenges such as a lack of medical practices, village shops, schools and public service provision. In this situation, expectations rest on a relatively new type of organization: social enterprises. A new book explores the role of social enterprises in rural spaces. more info