Innovation and Evidence

Innovation describes the development, implementation and dissemination of new processes, products or services in economy, policy or society. These innovations can take place on a technological level such as LED-bulbs or smart grids, but also on a social-cultural level in the form of new concepts of participation (such as energy supply systems developed and operated by citizens) or aspects of a sharing economy or of crowd sourcings.

Through cultural innovations, new models of society like the concept of "sharing instead of owning" or buen vivir can be developed. Just like in the case of the digital revolution, these technological, social and cultural innovations can influence and even magnify one another. 

Climate friendly innovations
Climate friendly innovations and solutions were presented at the exhibition "Solutions COP21" at the Grand Palais in Paris. Photo: Gilles Rolle / REA / laif

Innovations play a huge role when it comes to system transformations. Oftentimes those innovations bring the necessary movement to a system that lacks sufficient endogenous ability to change. How does one find out which innovations are sustainable and fit for the future while they simultaneously make a well-aimed contribution to system transformations? And how to shape the diffusion process, the path from innovation to the market implementation and finally to a market penetration?

Usually, decision makers come to their decisions based on evidence – (referring to the German broader definition of the term evidence instead of the narrow Anglo-American definition) meaning every intuitive form of knowledge or insight with a special claim of truth. The Wuppertal Institute supports with its evidence based research the decision making processes in different fields of action. This includes on the one hand the transformation towards a step-by-step dematerialised circular economy and the energy transition ("Energiewende") on the other hand. Those two transformation processes can only be achieved by cultural, social and technological innovations on all levels – from households to municipal administrations to transnational corporations and the United Nations. They also cause a considerable innovation dynamic themselves.

Depending on their political context of action, decision makers in policy and economy need evidence. Determined by the circumstances, simple narratives or heuristics (rules of the thumb) can contribute to that, or rather complex quantitative empirical evidence and complex modelling are necessary. The Wuppertal Institute provides what is needed for this. One key field of application for innovation-oriented evidence is a structural policy (regional policy, fostering of economy and innovations) relevant to environmental economics (Green Economy) and transformation research. Another field is the Wuppertal Institute's consultancy for national and European decision makers when it comes to designing and multi-criterially assessing innovations within the EU Framework for Research by providing impact assessments and evaluations.


Dr. Philipp Schepelmann

Tel.: +49 202 2492-242

Fax: +49 202 2492-138

Prof. Dr. Manfred Fischedick

Tel.: +49 202 2492-121

Fax: +49 202 2492-198

Publi- cations

Here you find publications on innovation and evidence.


Here you find research activities in the field of innovation and evidence.