Public Participation in Developing a Common Framework for the Assessment and Management of Sustainable Innovation

If you wish to cite this content please refer to:
Popper, R., Velasco, G., and Popper, M. (2017) CASI-F: Common Framework for the Assessment and Management of Sustainable Innovation, CASI project report. Deliverable 6.2.


The trend of wider societal engagement gained particular prominence and importance in 2013 within the 7th Framework Programme (FP7) of the European Commission, and was further reinforced via the succeeding Horizon 2020 Framework Programme for Research and Innovation (2014-2020). With the implementation of Horizon 2020 projects, a wide range of societal stakeholders, including the general public, is being involved and actively participating in Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) activities responding to one of the seven Societal Challenges defined by the EC and listed in Horizon 2020. In the context of the CASI project the participatory solutions aim to address the sustainability aspects of the 5th EU Societal Challenge on Climate Action, Environment, Resource Efficiency and Raw Materials (SC5), while supporting the assessment of sustainable innovation as spelled out in the second specific challenge of the Mobilising and Mutual Learning Action Plans (MMLAP) topics, listed in the Science in Society call for proposals of the Capacities Work Programme 2013. Furthermore, CASI was proposed within the context of the Europe 2020 Strategy; therefore it also embraces the aspirations to achieve smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, taking account of the economic, social and environmental aspects of sustainability.

While stimulating wider societal engagement is currently one of the main objectives in European policy-making, incorporating public concerns, interests and needs into the CASI-F-related formulation and validation activities were of particular importance to the project, in order to ensure the suitability, versatility and applicability of the framework to multiple contexts and actors.


Over 40 months, the CASI project has created and piloted a Common Framework for the Assessment and Management of SI (CASI-F) together with practitioners, including experts, innovators, policy-makers and civil society actors. The framework supports multi-stakeholder engagement in a participatory, evidence-based and forward-looking strategic analysis of critical issues related to sustainable innovations addressing SC5, and it's based on an extensive and comprehensive analysis of 500+ case studies, 40+ pilots with innovators, participatory workshops and focus groups, supported by desk research and knowledge crowd-sourcing strategies enabled by web-based tools, for the systematic assessment and management of sustainable innovation.

Overall, CASI-F was envisaged as a holistic tool to support forward-looking decision-making at strategic, tactical and operational levels for government, business, civil society and research and education actors. Moreover, CASI-F is a living ‘knowledge co-creation, co-assessment and co-management tool’ aiming to improve the economic, social and environmental sustainability of the following seven types of innovations: product, service, social, organisational, governance, system and marketing.

CASI-F complements but does not replace other mainstream frameworks, such as life cycle assessment, eco-efficiency, eco-design, footprint analyses, etc. While other tools and frameworks measure and assess quantitative sustainability-related indicators, CASI-F sets out to assess and manage the more intangible, yet equally important, aspects pertinent to sustainable innovation with a view to assisting or enabling future socio-technical system transitions.

CASI-F overview (Popper et al., 2017)



CASI-F was developed as part of a mobilisation and mutual learning agenda including CASI partners, country correspondents and a wide range of external stakeholders involved in various project activities, such as the CASI SI pilots, workshops and mutual learning events, interviews and questionnaires. More specifically, the interlinkages of Task 6.2 (Revision and Finalization of the CASI Framework) with other Work Packages (see include:

  • The development of CASI-F began and involved state-of-the-art research and innovation in the domain of SC5, following a literature review and documentary analysis of sustainable innovation definitions, frameworks, initiatives and relevant stakeholders, in order to establish a conceptual theoretical framework laying the foundations for remaining CASI-F developments (see Popper at al., 2016), including those of WP2. These involved:

    • Nominating 500+ sustainable innovation cases from across Europe and beyond;
    • Mapping the practices, outcomes and players of 200+ cases;
    • First draft of a working definition of sustainable innovation.

  • Additional reactions regarding CASI-F and related protocols and tools were gathered during 12 national CASI Mutual Learning Seminars, the objectives of which were to raise awareness of sustainable innovations, to share knowledge, reach a working agreement on the concept of SI as promoted by CASI and to generate new knowledge through interaction and discussions among the different stakeholder groups. For the purpose of this report, participants’ feedback and suggestions were concluded in Deliverable 3.2 (see Ivanov et al., 2016) and regarded:

    • Validation of the definition of ‘sustainable innovation’ produced in Deliverable 2.1
    • Validation of the benefits of the CASIPEDIA database produced in WP2
    • Validation of the main CASI-F features as drafted in Deliverable 4.2

  • The CASI-F draft was further discussed and validated during a series of workshops that involved CASI’s country correspondents, as well as a number of stakeholders in 12 EU countries, whose feedback (see Schwarz-Woelzl et al., 2016) was used to inform the final structure of CASI-F. The 12 workshops were conducted with the objective of generating feedback on the overall concept and approach of CASI-F from different stakeholders’ perspectives. They focused mainly on gathering feedback and opinions on:

    • Overall strengths and weaknesses of the CASI-F;
    • Whether the CASI-F tool could support the assessment and management of SI, moving it forward, and why;
    • Whether CASI-F could support the stakeholders participating in the workshop in their job with regard to sustainability and sustainable innovation, and why;
    • Any concerns related to the CASI-F draft;
    • Open questions and comments on the CASI-F draft;
    • Most important lessons related to the CASI Framework and its first draft.

  • CASI-F was thoroughly piloted, involving over 40 innovators in the assessment and prioritisation of critical issues related to their SI and identified during the mapping process, as well as in the formulation of actions (see Martin and Avarello, 2016; Schultze et al., 2016). The pilot was also used to validate the applicability of the framework to technological and social types of innovation, considering the specific characteristics of both. Twelve CASI partnering countries carried out the CASI-F pilot jointly with the innovators, which resulted in a total of 43 piloted cases and supported the:

    • Validation of SI initiative assessment in CASIPEDIA;
    • Revision of critical issues (i.e. barriers, opportunities, weaknesses, strengths);
    • Definition of potential actions at three levels of management (i.e. strategic, tactical and operational) and consideration of four stakeholders´ perspectives (government, business, civil society and research and education actors), considering critical issues and the assessment of SI cases for the definition of actions supporting the management of SI;
    • Assessment of actions by level of importance, feasibility and impact (environmental, social and economic);
    • Identification of actions for the development of elaborated action roadmaps;
    • Meta-actions based on clustering of the actions identified by the innovators.

  • Action roadmaps (see Anttila, 2016), with sub-tasks planned and structured around 10 key management aspects, were co-produced with innovators in order to address previously identified critical issues, thus supporting better management of sustainable innovations. These led to the following outcomes:

    • 46 actionable roadmaps;
    • Interviews on the implementation of CASI-F conducted with innovators in 12 EU countries;
    • Feedback from the innovators summarised in Deliverable 6.1, with recommendations for the final version of CASI-F.


CASI-F, a holistic framework with the capacity to consider the multi-dimensional, multi-stakeholder and innovation system perspectives, was developed through carefully designed and structured process of systematically conducted activities. Furthermore, CASI-F builds on hands-on experience and lessons learned through mobilisation and mutual learning activities, hence it evolved from within its creation following the assessment components designed to map SI initiatives, and from the management components that focused on the development and prioritisation of actions and roadmaps supporting the sustainability of innovations.
While CASI-F promotes a structured process supported by five sets of tools and protocols, it is at the same time flexible and versatile enough to stimulate reflection and confront users with the self-search and out-of-the-box thinking required to tackle complex societal challenges with a multi-systemic approach. The figure below illustrates how the five-step approach of CASI-F was applied to innovations (cases), policies (briefs) and aspirations (visions).

CASI-F Sustainability Cube (Popper et al., 2017)

Three parallel and complementary analytical approaches are combined in CASI-F and were to some extent piloted during the project. First, the tracking of sustainable innovations in terms of their practices, outcomes and players (Track 1). Second, the tracking of sustainable policies through the analysis of national and European level policy developments on climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials (Track 2). Third, the tracking of sustainable aspirations of citizens and experts engaged in visioning and priority-setting exercises (Track 3).

  • CASI-F has been developed to support government, business, civil society, and research and education actors in promoting responsible innovation and increasing the sustainability of their activities. In so doing, CASI-F underpins basic principles of good governance (EC, 2001) where: (1) openness highlights the need for more efficient and transparent communication of EC activities to the public; (2) participation assumes that promoting wide participation in policy development helps to reinforce confidence in the European institutions; (3) accountability demands more clarity and responsibility among those who formulate and implement EU policies; (4) effectiveness calls for more effective, timely, objectives-aligned, proportionate and impact-evaluated policy initiatives; and (5) coherence requires consistent policies and actions that are easily understood by the public, despite their use in complex and uncertain problems such as climate change and resource scarcity.


  • In order to ensure that the tracking of innovations, policies and aspirations goes beyond academic purposes to meet the ambition of becoming a common framework for the assessment and management of sustainable innovation capable of offering practical and effective advice, CASI-F approaches, tools and protocols have also considered the five RACER criteria of the EC’s Impact Assessment Guidelines (EC, 2009) by being Relevant, Accepted, Credible, Easy and Robust.

    CASI-F alignment with the RACER criteria of the EC Impact Assessment Guidelines


  • CASI-F gathers knowledge and information from a wide range of sources in order to assist government, business, civil society, and research and education actors in the assessment and management of sustainable innovations. Sustainable innovations involve multifaceted processes embedded in numerous sectors and research areas. The diversity of actors involved in sustainability-oriented processes requires an inclusive and versatile analytical framework capable of generating new knowledge by combining evidence, expertise, creativity and interaction-based approaches.

    CASI-F sources of knowledge and strategic intelligence


  • The volume and complexity of transitions and socio-technical system transformations at the niche level of innovations, the regime level of policies and the landscape level of aspirations to sustainability makes it difficult to devise a single optimal procedure to assess and manage sustainable innovations addressing SC5. The variety of systemic changes and their dynamic nature calls for a heuristic framework capable of accelerating the process of identifying satisfactory responses to critical issues related to this and other societal challenges. As a result, we have taken a multi-level perspective (MLP) approach to develop CASI-F as a set of protocols and tools supporting the assessment and management of critical issues influencing different types of innovations (level 1 or niche), current national and supranational policies (level 2 or regime) and the aspirations of multiple stakeholders, combining lay and expert perspectives on sustainability (level 3 or landscape).
    The MLP approach is also a heuristic tool for understanding past, current and possible future changes in socio-technical systems, based on the analysis of multi-level transformations in economic, societal, environmental, infrastructure and government systems. Through such a systematic analysis of multi-systemic sustainability, CASI-F helps to identify and assess critical issues (e.g. barriers, drivers, opportunities and threats) that require single- or multi-stakeholder actions at the strategic, tactical or operational decision-making levels. This is then complemented with a multi-criteria assessment and prioritisation of resulting actions, some of which are further developed into action roadmaps with the aim of supporting, on the one hand, the sustainability of existing innovations, policies and aspirations, and, on the other hand, the transition towards a better and more sustainable socio-technical system.

    CASI-F assisted Socio-technical System Transitions


  • CASI-F recognises the importance of a multi-systemic sustainability assessment applied to 202 innovations. Overall, CASI-F used 44 criteria to assess ‘positive’ transformations in economic, societal, environmental, infrastructure and government systems.

    • (ECO) Economic systems criteria: Production; Consumption; Local trade; International trade; Labour and employment; Financial system; other macroeconomics transformations.
    • (SOC) Societal systems criteria: Population development and composition; Income distribution and class structure; Social security and ageing provisions; Social interaction and communication; Social behaviour; Civil liberties and human rights; Gender, social class and groups equity; Individual autonomy and self-determination; Education and qualification; Human health; Individual behaviour.
    • (ENV) Environmental systems criteria: Environmental protection laws and policies; Resource extraction policy and practice; Protection of renewable resources; Protection of species and ecological heritage; Protection of cultural heritage and the rights of future generations.
    • (INF) Infrastructure systems criteria: Settlements and cities; Transportation and distribution; Waste management; Health services; Communication and media; Energy, water and food supply system; other goods supply system; Services supply system; Creation, destruction or modification of research, technology development and innovation (RTDI) institutions/organisations; Knowledge-transfer channels; RTDI wiring up and collaborative connections.
    • (GOV) Government systems criteria: Government administration; Public finances and taxes; New Governance institutions; Political participation and democracy; Conflict control and resolution; Population and immigration policy; Government intelligence; International assistance and aid policy; Industry and Technology policy.

    The figure below shows the results of this assessment, normalised to the maximum positive transformation score, since the main purpose of this analysis was to identify those important areas where sustainable innovations had made significant multi-systemic positive transformations. In total, 18 criteria showed very high, high and moderate impact (representing 64% of the total positive transformations of the 202 SI cases):

    CASI-F assessment of multi-systemic sustainability