With mounting sustainability challenges, policy makers have embraced the idea of transformative, mission-oriented innovation policies, to direct innovation objectives towards the ‘grand challenges’ in recent years. Against this backdrop, the discourse on innovation ecosystems, bringing together actors from science, industry, government and civil society for collaborative research and innovation, has increasingly gained traction. Yet, their role and architectural set-up in a sustainability context remains rather poorly understood. Complementing a systematic literature review with methods of bibliometric analysis and typology building, this paper introduces a typology of mission-oriented innovation ecosystems. It finds that, depending on the type of mission they are trying to address, ecosystems differ, with both a view to the actors involved, and the specific role taken on by them throughout the innovation process. In particular, it points to an increasingly important role of the state for realizing system-level transformations, underlines the importance of civil society involvement, and highlights research organizations’ need to adapt to new requirements.
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