Challenge-Driven Innovation (CDI)

“Do we want to make the world a more sustainable place through concentrated efforts around a complex societal challenge? In the “Utmaningsdriven Innovation” (UDI) (“Challenge-Driven Innovation” (CDI) program) we create the conditions for actors that want to investigate, develop and implement innovative solutions that contribute to the sustainability targets of the 2030 Agenda”.

Sweden’s Innovation Agency, Vinnova, issued a call for project proposals in September 2018, whose outcome is to:

  • Address societal challenges, clearly arising from the 2030 Agenda
  • Genuinely contribute to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the 2030 Agenda
  • Is innovative and needs-driven
  • Has the potential to generate growth and has an international impact

The call, which was repeated in January 2019, is addressed to organisations that are willing and able to cooperate on a rapid development of innovative solutions at the system-level. The project proposal shall build on an active cooperation between all the actors (e.g. industry, research institutions, public institutions and civil society) that are necessary for a successful result, including the groups, whose needs are in focus. The project team should take into account the gender representation, as well as the distribution of power and influence between men and women.

Vinnova requires that several key conditions must be met about a project’s research design; it should bring on a system perspective, that analyses the entirety of the specific elements, that are necessary to respond to the particular societal challenge. At the same time, the project should identify and eliminate any obstacles to the creation, dissemination or implementation of the new solution through different types of impact and policy work. The groups that are directly affected by the project results, should get involved in the project process.

Vinnova is fully committed to the actual effects of the innovation. Vinnova has recently signed a 4-year contract with the Danish consultancy firm Rambøll Management Consulting for the analysis and description of the social impacts of the program. Johannes Henriksson, senior consultant at Rambøll’s office in Sweden, explains:

The Challenge-Driven Innovation (CDI) differentiates from Vinnova’s other initiatives, since it is focusing on social challenges instead of technological ones. Moreover, the projects involve a significant number of stakeholders, that wish to find new solutions and new working methods to contribute to a better society. We believe, that this is a highly interesting approach.”

The Innovation Fund in Denmark has the “Global Solutions” program. There are no references in this program to the sustainability goals of the 2030 Agenda and no mention of assessment of the projects’ social impacts. However, the Innovation Fund has laid down an investment strategy for the UN Goal 7 on sustainable energy for the years 2018-2020.

Professor Flemming Besenbacher, chairman of the Carlsberg Foundation, has argued for several years for the Scientific Social Responsibility (SSR) as a parallel to companies’ work with Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). In granting financial support for research projects, the Carlsberg Foundation makes use of the SSR. The Foundation supports fundamental research, that not necessarily gives rise to immediate value and progress for the community. However, its SSR focus motivates the researchers to take co-responsibility for the social development and to consider how the fundamental research could help to solve global challenges. The Carlsberg Foundation specifies in its instructions to the applicants:

“It is important that when we try to resolve these “Grand Challenges”, to concentrate, refer interdisciplinary to the research and break down the barriers that we often encounter in academia. We should integrate the disciplines of natural science, humanities and social sciences when addressing these issues. Scientific Social Responsibility is an important instrument in this regard and the Carlsberg Foundation will motivate researchers to actively communicate that they are committed to it.”


Translated from Swedish and Danish by Lamprini Koleidou