Social innovation is the term used to describe new social practices or concepts that lead to change in society. One example of a social innovation is the proliferation of working from home during the coronavirus pandemic. A publication by the CHE Centre for Higher Education now highlights specific examples of social innovation that have emerged on campus.

So far, there has been little research on the emergence of social innovation driven by higher education institutions (HEIs). In the context of the WISIH project, launched in 2019, CHE researchers are investigating this process – from the generation of an idea to the actual innovation. The project focuses on the area of nursing science as well as on work, occupational and business psychology.

In a recent publication, the WISIH team now presents specific examples of social innovation that have emerged at German HEIs. Academics who initiated and accompanied the process at their university provide insights into the development process and the framework conditions.

The examples, presented online as part of a workshop report in April 2021, have now been compiled into a brochure.

The brochure provides information on HEIs such as Technische Hochschule Köln, where the topic of social innovation is firmly embedded in everyday campus life as a guiding principle and part of the university strategy. It also features joint projects such as “s_inn”, initiated by the Catholic University of Applied Sciences of North Rhine-Westphalia and the Protestant University of Applied Sciences in Bochum, which supports transfer activities with a social focus at five locations in North Rhine-Westphalia.

Examples of other specific projects include the development of “social robots” in the area of elderly care at the Hochschule für Technik und Wirtschaft Dresden – University of Applied Sciences, the Science Shop at the University of Vechta, the topic of intergenerational solidarity in rural areas (University of Applied Sciences Neubrandenburg) and IT solutions to assist in the care of relatives (Osnabrück University of Applied Sciences).

“Until now, the path taken by social innovations before becoming visible as such in society has been like a journey made without a navigation system,” explained Isabel Roessler. “We want to develop tools that make it easier for researchers to plan and comprehend the path of social innovation emerging from campus,” stated the WISIH Project Leader at CHE. The brochure is another step in this direction, she added.

Based on the examples presented, the authors also draw conclusions on obstacles and success factors in the social innovation process. These include, for example, involving students, establishing new funding lines for financing, and raising awareness of the communication problems encountered in interdisciplinary work.


About the publication

The publication is part of the CHE project “WISIH: Paths and indicators of social innovations driven by higher education institutions in the field of Nursing Science and Occupational, Organisational and Business Psychology”. Other outputs of the project related to this issue, such as a model describing how social innovations emerge on campus and international examples of good practice are available on the CHE website for download. The project receives funding from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research under the funding ID 16IFI112. The publication “Soziale Innovationen aus Hochschulen – Aktivitäten und Handlungsbedarfe” (Social innovation driven by higher education institutions – processes, phases and pathways) was edited by Bianca Brinkmann, Isabel Roessler and Saskia Ulrich. 


Soziale Innovationen aus Hochschulen - Aktivitäten und Handlungsbedarfe 7. July 2021 2.13 MB 18201 downloads

Brinkmann, Bianca; Roessler, Isabel; Ulrich, Saskia: Soziale Innovationen aus Hochschulen...