2331 Sustainable Economics and Business II: Innovation Meets Sustainability and Growth
Hanja Pisa, MSc.
Contact details
Weekly hours
Language of instruction
09/09/21 to 09/27/21
Registration via LPIS
Notes to the course
Subject(s) Bachelor Programs
Day Date Time Room
Tuesday 10/12/21 02:00 PM - 05:00 PM TC.4.14
Tuesday 10/19/21 02:00 PM - 05:00 PM TC.4.14
Tuesday 11/02/21 02:00 PM - 05:00 PM TC.4.14
Tuesday 11/09/21 02:00 PM - 05:00 PM TC.4.14
Tuesday 11/16/21 02:00 PM - 05:00 PM TC.4.14
Tuesday 11/23/21 02:00 PM - 05:00 PM Online-Einheit
Tuesday 11/30/21 02:00 PM - 05:00 PM Online-Einheit
Tuesday 12/14/21 02:00 PM - 03:30 PM Online-Einheit

Change and innovation are central aspects of human societies. We are curious beings and strive for making things better for us and our surroundings. However, in the current economic system this idea has increasingly turned into an "innovate or die"-mania: "Innovation is a must. It leads to prosperity for all and will solve our problems of sustainability." However, is all innovation good? How do we define progress? Who profits from what kind of innovation? Can we innovate responsibly? And what about the prevalent idea of "green growth"? Is there progress without more production?

In this course, we will critically reflect upon the prevailing narrative that innovation is both the driver of and solution to economic growth; reflect upon our understanding of innovation, the role it plays in society, and its opportunities and limitations.

In general, how does change come about on planet earth? In order to gain a better understanding of (economic) innovation, we will also turn to the powerful concept of evolution. Most of us are familiar with it from biology - but it extends to other disciplines as a general framework for structural change processes. Humanity, its institutions and technologies co-evolve with their environment. In a way, economic evolution selects innovation. We will discuss how an evolutionary perspective can help us to better comprehend and analyze human progression, economic transformation, novelty and its successful dissemination.

In this course we will...
... start by introducing the biophysical foundations of economic activity.
... address limits of green growth.
... talk about evolution: variety, selection, innovation, replication.
... discuss complexity and the strengths and weaknesses of model building.
... analyze innovation from various angles.
... also discuss theories of human needs, to address questions such as to what extent innovation satisfies human needs?
... aim our inquiry at understanding whether and how we could untangle innovation from growth in material throughput.

Learning outcomes

In this class, students will...

... acquire a holistic view of economy and society as embedded in biophysical systems.

... have learnt about economic evolution and both its similarities and differences to biological evolution.

... reflect critically on innovation, economic growth and the link between the two of them.

... learn to reflect on and evaluate the impact of current economic activity and the idea of green growth.

... understand the effects of technology and economic activities on society and environment.

... gain a better understanding of technological innovation, its emergence, consequences and goals for society.

... discuss complexity and modeling.

... reflect on economics in a historical context.

... consider ethical, social and environmental issues implied in their decisions, their social responsibility and contribution to sustainability.

... read, present and discuss academic literature.

Attendance requirements

Attendance is mandatory (there will be no exam). In case you cannot make it to a unit, please make sure to inform the lecturer in advance.

For now, the course is scheduled to take place in person on campus! Please prepare to be physically present for the entire teaching time.

Depending on the development of Covid-19 regulations, the course might switch to either distance or rotation mode. Distance mode would take place via Zoom. In case of rotation (hybrid) mode, the class would be split into two groups such that students have to be present for either the first or the second half of the course time.

You are expected to arrive/log-in on time.

Teaching/learning method(s)

This class will be composed of a diverse set of elements, such as:

  • Input by lecturer
  • Presentations by (groups of) students
  • Discussions (about lecturer's input, student presentations, academic articles, etc.)
  • Student summaries and reflections of homework assignments (e.g. readings of (academic) articles, short writing assignments, watching lecture casts etc.)
  • Various in-class group exercises

Grading will be based on:

  • Active in-class participation -- 25%
  • Homework assignments -- 20%
  • Group presentation -- 20%
  • Discussion of another group's presentation -- 15%
  • Essay -- 20%
Last edited: 2021-09-23