Call for paper for the Triple Helix Special issue “Sustainable Development and Triple Helix Constellations”

Special Issue Editors Emanuela Todeva and Christiane Gebhardt


The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals were launched in 2015. They address environmental, social and economic sustainability in a cohesive, integrated and measurable way. However, there is a multitude of agencies, different taxonomies, and different science traditions which are involved in the agenda setting (topics, regions, species), the definition of implementation pathways (top-down or bottom-up) as well as in the conflictual selection of the right mix of indicators and monitoring systems. Although variety is needed for solution building, the situation comprises a severe challenge for an efficient implementation of SDG goals and poses a risk to meet the targets in 2030. For instance, The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), The European Taxonomy (Environmental, Social, and Governance ESG Criteria), and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) still struggle for a common way on how to reach the goals and how to set priorities in different locations as temporal and spatial effects of climate change negatively correlate with equity (Leach et al., 2018) and disadvantages take a spatial dimension.


It turns out that the reconciliation of smart, ecologically sustainable and human-centered development challenges traditional blueprints for economic growth, innovation pathways, and governance of regional development. Thus, the SDG induced an intense discussion of underlying political and societal values. In addition, that debate brought forward new concepts like equity-based development, valuation of ecosystem services, community-led governance, social innovation, as well as circular economy. The Covid crisis only exacerbated the world-wide realization of interconnectedness and interdependency, setting new targets not only to address Climate Change, but to deal with poverty, economic development and revised growth pathways.


In different locations of the world the SDG indicators are often contradictory.  The implementation of the high level concept takes the nature of a complex or “wicked problem” which is difficult or impossible to solve because of incomplete, contradictory, and changing requirements that are often difficult to recognize, and which lack a single solution to the problem (Rittel and Weber 1973 in: Martine et al., 2016). There is empirical evidence that new ways of organizing the solution building are needed to mitigate these conflicts of interests (Leaf, 2017). We are also in need to find methodological approaches to capture what is going on. Whether these are Triple Helix, or Quadruple and Quintuple Helix models, there is a common realization that stakeholders must be involved in all points of the decision-making process to meet climate goals – from problem definition to strategy definition, solution implementation and accountability. Importantly, an adaptive and learning approach is needed to address differences in local absorptiveness and find adequate and accepted solutions.


We believe that the interdependency of Society and Ecology and Governance of Transformation needs a renewed academic consideration and an inter-disciplinary discourse to anticipate the consequences of climate change like land use and degradation in a manner which provides new opportunities to make a living through better management plans and concerted actions. Use cases show that sustainable development can be achieved by participatory governance and stakeholder-based decision-making which provides comprehensive management plans for implementation in regions and cities (Ngoka and Lameed, 2012; Gil, Cortés-Cediel and Cantador, 2019; Gebhardt, 2020).


We are interested to receive papers on regional cases that illustrate the integration of applied science and solution-oriented research within new frameworks and concepts such as equity-based development, ecosystem services, community-led governance, as well as circular economy. We invite all scholars in regional innovation studies and innovation to discuss spatial impact of climate change and new regimes in agriculture, food production, ecotourism and nature-based solutions.


We particularly welcome papers that reveal the incentives for new stakeholders and industries to participate in triple helix or other helix and stakeholder-governance constellations for innovation and transformation and to make decisions towards sustainable investments. Papers may also address the contribution of social innovation towards sustainability and social, economic and environmental resilience.


Relevant topics for submissions:


  • Governance models for coping with climate change (Case studies)
  • National parks, ecotourism and sustainable development
  • Smart&Sustainable cities and regions
  • The need for responsible land use and the future of ecosystem services and the relevance of innovation in that context
  • New pathways in the agricultural sectors and sustainable supply chains
  • Nature based solutions, frugal and sustainable innovation, social entrepreneurship and poverty reduction
  • Big data for research on climate change and monitoring systems
  • Digital and data revolution, key enabling technologies, and socio-economic response to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)


Submission of Abstracts and Expressions of Interest (500 words) – please, e-mail your proposals to e.todeva(at) and christiane.gebhardt(at) by


1 January 2022


Full Papers will be due for submission on the THJ web-site ( by


31 January 2022


Please, refer to submission guidelines before uploading your articles. You can find the instructions to authors here.




Danson, M. and Todeva, E. (2016) ‘Government and Governance of Regional Triple Helix Interactions’, Industry and Higher Education,30 (1): 13-26. Diaz, S. et al., ( 2015) ‘The IPBES Conceptual Framework — connecting nature and people’, Current opinion in environmental sustainability, 14, pp. 1-16.

Díaz, S. et al., ( 2015) ‘The IPBES Conceptual Framework — connecting nature and people’, Current opinion in environmental sustainability, 14, pp. 1-16.

Dora, C. D. et al., (2015) ‘Indicators linking health and sustainability in the post-2015 development agenda’, The Lancet (British edition), 385(9965), pp. 380-391.

Gebhardt, C. (2020) ‘The Impact of Participatory Governance on Regional Development Pathways: Citizen-driven Smart, Green and Inclusive Urbanism in the Brainport Metropolitan Region’, Triple helix (Heidelberg), 2019(1), pp. 69-110.

Gil, O. et al., (2019) ‘Citizen Participation and the Rise of Digital Media Platforms in Smart Governance and Smart Cities’, International journal of e-planning research, 8(1), pp. 19-34.

Leach, M., et al. (2018) ‘Equity and sustainability in the Anthropocene: a social–ecological systems perspective on their intertwined futures’, Global Sustainability, 1.

Martine, M. et al., (2016) ‘Taming a Wicked Problem: Resolving Controversies in Biodiversity Offsetting’, Bioscience, 66(6), pp. 489-498.

Megan, et al., (2014) ‘The Concept, Dimensions and Methods of Assessment of Human Well-Being within a Socioecological Context: A Literature Review’, Social indicators research, 116(3), pp. 681-698.

Todeva, E. and Ketikidis, P. (2017) ‘Managing the Triple Helix: Regions as Place-Based and Industry-Based Political Arenas’, Management Dynamics in the Knowledge Economy, 5 (1): 9-12.