Social innovation research: An emerging area of innovation studies?

Robert P. van der Have, Luis Rubalcaba

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

    468 Citations (Scopus)


    While the adoption of Social Innovation (SI) in the governance and policy domain has fueled a rapidly expanding scholarly literature, this field has become characterized by conceptual ambiguity and a diversity of definitions and research settings. This present situation inhibits the integration of findings. This paper traces the content, scope and relatively short history of modern social innovation research across disciplines by applying network and bibliometric analyses, and explores their relevance to innovation studies. Based on data from 172 publications, we analyze scholarly works that directly address the social innovation topic, allowing us to identify the precedence, dynamics and the current map of social innovation research as an emerging field of study. Our analysis suggests that the SI field is grounded in four distinct intellectual communities arising through a somewhat organized diffusion process: 1) Community Psychology; 2) Creativity research; 3) Social and societal challenges; 4) Local development. The interest of SI in the areas of management and entrepreneurship is only very recent and is currently reflected within existing communities. We forge conceptual bridges between the two (currently very separate) domains of social innovation and innovation studies, and the implications of our finding for further research and policy are also discussed.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1923-1935
    JournalResearch Policy
    Issue number9
    Publication statusPublished - 2016
    MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


    • social innovation
    • social entrepreneurship
    • social value
    • social technology
    • bibliometrics
    • integrative literature review


    Dive into the research topics of 'Social innovation research: An emerging area of innovation studies?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this