Mission-Oriented Innovation Districts: Towards challenge-led, place-based urban innovation

Sebastian Fastenrath*, Sam Tavassoli, Darren Sharp, Rob Raven, Lars Coenen, Bruce Wilson, Daan Schraven

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
91 Downloads (Pure)


In recent years, there has been rapidly growing interest in Innovation Districts (ID) in urban policy and practice. IDs are touted as catalysts for innovation and economic development involving a wide range of stakeholders often in under-performing neighbourhoods or precincts. Despite the appeal, critique is forming around their linear understanding of innovation, the narrow focus of economic goals and lack of directionality in addressing grand societal challenges. This paper proposes the concept of Mission-Oriented Innovation Districts (MOID). MOID are thought to help design, shape and drive transformative change from a place-based perspective. Methodologically, this paper conceptually reviews antecedents of and draws on a structured search and scoping review of the two popular but disjointed literatures on ID and Mission-Oriented Innovation (MOI). Drawing on an analysis of 99 journal articles, this paper seeks to provide a better understanding about differences and common grounds of the two strands of literature. Five analytical categories are developed and applied to assess and interpret insights from existing publications: (1) understandings, definitions, and objectives; (2) theoretical-conceptual underpinnings; (3) analytical and methodological approaches; (4) evaluation; and (5) governance. We find that there is ample opportunity for cross-fertilization of insights across these two literatures. Based on this in-depth analysis, the contours of a new concept of MOID are outlined through a formal definition of MOID and insights from the analysis are translated into future research questions to inform a transformative agenda for innovation policy.

Original languageEnglish
Article number138079
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Challenge-orientation
  • Innovation districts
  • Innovation policy
  • Missions
  • Place-based innovation
  • Transformative change


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