What is special about transition experiments?

There are some obvious differences between classical innovation projects and transition projects (transitionexperiments in jargon) as the following table shows.


Classical innovation project

Transition project


Possible solution for a not particularly complex and often practical problem; innovation with a view to new markets

Contribution to a wider social challenge (such as a problem associated with sustainable development)

Nature of innovation

More incremental than radical; no significant change in the regime

The innovation is by nature radical and represents a break with the existing regime

Time horizon for the innovation

2-5 years

Beyond the experiment itself: medium and longer term


Specialist staff: researchers, engineers and other professionals in an organisation

Specialist staff and others: stakeholders from different organisations and/or domains


Often implicit and confined to a single domain/company or several key persons. It seldom encompasses a reassessment of fundamental assumptions and values

Learning about the innovation and structural obstacles is an essential element of the experiment. Findings are translated to the experiment and the environment

Management context

Classical project management

Project management is aimed at:

  • preserving the actual innovation
  • creating change-oriented coalitions
  • learning and creating new structural conditions (such as rules, culture, legal preconditions)

Even if your project does not meet all of these characteristics the information on this site will prove useful if the project meets any of the following conditions:

  • The project contributes to a wider challenge for the longer term
  • The project transcends the boundaries of your own organisation
  • The project calls for innovation of the structure or the regime, such as rules, routines, culture, roles and knowledge

In that case, the tips and points to consider presented on this site will help to increase your project's potential to bring about a transition