Technological Innovation Systems approach (TIS)


Use for

Identifying possible bottlenecks for anchoring initiatives for system innovation


This method involves analysis of innovations with a technological ‘core'. The method distinguishes different so-called ‘system functions' within an innovation system that seem to be necessary for the anchoring or widespread adoption of the innovation. Case studies have shown that certain system functions have a positive effect on each other. These are known as ‘innovation engines'. Four different engines of innovation have been identified that, the researchers believe, succeed one another in a process leading towards wider application.

What do you do?

Based on your knowledge of the innovation, identify the 'structural dimensions': the actors, institutions, interactions, and infrastructure. After that, you collect information about seven system functions:

  1. Entrepreneurial experiments with commercial projects, demonstration projects, expansions of portfolios
  2. Knowledge development through studies, laboratory experiments, pilots, communities of practice
  3. Knowledge diffusion through networks, for example at conferences and through workshops, alliances and communities of practice
  4. Guidance of the search by ‘managing' expectations, promises, policy objectives
  5. Creation of markets, for example through market stimulation policy, tax exemptions
  6. Mobilisation of resources, for example in the form of subsidies, venture capital, investments
  7. Support from advocacy coalitions, for example by means of lobbing, advisory reports.

On the basis of these results you focus only on the weakest or absent function(s) and identify what hinders them. Try to identify what systemic problems block the development and functioning of the system. And the last step may be to analyse what systemic policy instrument you can propose for the system.''

Under 'more information', you find a short handout describing the steps mentioned here.


Experience with the method is needed.

More information

  • Wieczorek, A (2012). Short handout on TIS
  • Suurs, R (2009). Motors of sustainable innovation. Towards a theory on the dynamics of technological innovation systems Chapter 9 in Thesis, Rijksuniversiteit Utrecht: Utrecht.
  • Hekkert, Marko, et al. (2007). Functions of innovation systems: A new approach for analyzing technological change. Technological Forecasting & Social Change74, pp. 413-431.

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