City Research Online

Research and innovation as a catalyst for food system transformation

den Boer, A. C. L., Kok, K. P. W., Gill, M. , Breda, J., Cahill, J., Callenius, C., Caron, P., Damianova, Z., Gurinovic, M., Lahteenmaki, L., Lang, T. ORCID: 0000-0002-1184-8344, Sonnino, R., Verburg, G., Westhoek, H., Cesuroglu, T., Regeer, B. J. & Broerse, J. E. W. (2021). Research and innovation as a catalyst for food system transformation. Trends in Food Science and Technology, 107, pp. 150-156. doi: 10.1016/j.tifs.2020.09.021


Background Food systems are associated with severe and persistent problems worldwide. Governance approaches aiming to foster sustainable transformation of food systems face several challenges due to the complex nature of food systems.

Scope and approach In this commentary we argue that addressing these governance challenges requires the development and adoption of novel research and innovation (R&I) approaches that will provide evidence to inform food system transformation and will serve as catalysts for change. We first elaborate on the complexity of food systems (transformation) and stress the need to move beyond traditional linear R&I approaches to be able to respond to persistent problems that affect food systems. Though integrated transdisciplinary approaches are promising, current R&I systems do not sufficiently support such endeavors. As such, we argue, we need strategies that trigger a double transformation – of food systems and of their R&I systems.

Key Findings and Conclusions Seizing the opportunities to transform R&I systems has implications for how research is done – pointing to the need for competence development among researchers, policy makers and society in general – and requires specific governance interventions that stimulate a systemic approach. Such interventions should foster transdisciplinary and transformative research agendas that stimulate portfolios of projects that will reinforce one another, and stimulate innovative experiments to shape conditions for systemic change. In short, a thorough rethinking of the role of R&I as well as how it is funded is a crucial step towards the development of the integrative policies that are necessary to engender systemic change – in the food system and beyond.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2020. This manuscript version is made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license in new tab/window)
Publisher Keywords: Food system transformation, Complexity, Research & innovation systems, Transdisciplinarity, Governance interventions, Competence building
Subjects: R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Healthcare Services Research & Management
SWORD Depositor:
[thumbnail of denBoer_etal_manuscript_TIFS_20200421_revised.pdf]
Text - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

Download (329kB) | Preview


Add to AnyAdd to TwitterAdd to FacebookAdd to LinkedinAdd to PinterestAdd to Email


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics

Actions (login required)

Admin Login Admin Login