Implementing sustainability co-creation between universities and society: A typology-based understanding

Gregory Trencher, Masafumi Nagao, Chiahsin Chen, Kentaro Ichiki, Tobai Sadayoshi, Mariko Kinai, Mio Kamitani, Shojiro Nakamura, Aiko Yamauchi, Masaru Yarime

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


Universities are under mounting pressure to partner with societal stakeholders and organizations to collaboratively create and implement sustainability-advancing knowledge, tools, and societal transformations. Simultaneously, an increasing number of societal organizations are reaching out to partner with universities to achieve organizational objectives and increase the effectiveness of strategies to further societal sustainability. Using a conceptual framework of "sustainability co-creation", this study empirically examines the historical and ongoing experiences of five organizations in Japan that actively partner with universities to enhance sustainability activities and strategies to transform society. We examine motivations for partnering with universities, innovative models of practice, factors hampering the co-creative potential of the university, and desired changes to overcome these. Our empirical study leads to the proposal of a typology that might assist in categorizing and understanding key attributes of differing types of sustainability co-creation. We build our typology from two perspectives: First, in terms of the primary objective of the co-creation (ranging from knowledge production to the transformation of society), and second, in terms of the approach taken (ranging from either socially or technologically-centered). We then reflect on the organizations' experiences to offer several strategies that could increase the effectiveness of the university when partnering with stakeholders in sustainability co-creation. We also highlight several factors effecting the university's capacity to move beyond knowledge production towards implementation measures to transform society with external stakeholders.

Original languageEnglish
Article number594
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Apr 12

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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