In June the 9thInternational Sustainability Transitions conference took place in Manchester (UK). Naturvation researchers Sander van der Jagt and Hade Dorst participated in the conference to present recent work in understanding and conceptualising innovating with nature. Their contribution did not go unnoticed: the paper was nominated for the best conference paper award! So what is this paper all about and why is it important?

As the benefits of NBS in urban sustainability are increasingly recognised in policy and practice, so too are the challenges to realise pathways through which NBS are mainstreamed. Mainstreaming innovations has long been an interest in the sustainability transitions community. This has resulted in the development and empirical testing of conceptual frameworks such as Technological Innovation Systems (TIS). Hence, the current paper explores the value of learning across these bodies of literature and develops a comparative dialogue to propose a novel, integrated perspective: nature-based innovation systems (NBIS).

NBIS, in short, builds upon contemporary insights from NBS literature to identify a number of key factors that shape successful NBS pathways. Such factors include but are not limited to strong leadership, partnerships, experimentation, monitoring, finance and local embedding. Insights from contemporary TIS literature adds that current NBS research and practice will benefit from taking a more dynamic perspective, engaging more with a systemic understanding of innovation processes and recognising a broader understanding of contextual dynamics beyond local embedding. However, using TIS for analysis of innovation with nature also implies more attention for agency, politics and place-based dynamics.

Innovating with nature is arguably not the same as innovating with technologies, but much is to be learned by further building interdisciplinary collaborations between environmental governance and innovation studies. Keep an eye on Naturvation for more to follow!

Rob Raven is a Professor at Monash Sustainable Development Institute, Monash University, supporting the Naturvation project.