Challenge Lab: A transformative and integrative approach for sustainability transitions
Paper in proceeding, 2015

We present a model where master students act as change agents, inducing sustainability transitions in socio-technical systems by applying backcasting. Creating transitions in a complex socio-technical system, where universities need to collaborate with the public- and private sector (the triple helix) is often hindered by various kinds of lock-ins. In Sweden, previous attempts to solve this include companies, governmental bodies and researchers acting individually to bring together stakeholders to dislodge these lock-ins. To complement this, a neutral “Challenge Lab” arena was created, where master students run transformative backcasting projects. Interviews with triple helix stakeholders were conducted. Industrial stakeholders claim the students were in a unique position as unthreatening, yet challenging. Academic stakeholders highlight students as unravelling issues and going deeper in the questions resulting in quicker processes and trust in their own dialogue work. Public sector stakeholders claim dialogue resulted in true personal opinions coming to the surface and another stakeholder modified their overall climate strategy as a result of the change agent dialogue. The study indicates that students are unthreatening yet challenging change agents, catalysing trust on various triple helix system levels. Other universities can adopt this model for engaging in sustainability transitions.

challenge lab learning leadership sustainability transition


John Holmberg

Chalmers, Energy and Environment, Physical Resource Theory

Johan Larsson

Chalmers, Energy and Environment, Physical Resource Theory

David Andersson

Chalmers, Technology Management and Economics

The International Sustainability Transitions Conference (IST 2015) at the University of Sussex (UK)

Driving Forces

Sustainable development

Innovation and entrepreneurship

Areas of Advance


Building Futures (2010-2018)


Subject Categories

Other Engineering and Technologies

Learning and teaching

Pedagogical work

More information