The practice of innovation: The role of institutions in support of Non-Wood Forest Products

Alice Ludvig, Giulia Corradini, Marelli Asamer-Handler, Davide Pettenella, Verónica Verdejo, Silvia Martínez, Gerhard Weiss


This article examines institutional structures in innovations that have emerged around Non-Wood Forest Products (NWFPs) in three European regions. We examine both the involvement and role of institutions in three selected in-depth case studies: a food label from nature parks (AT), a mushroom cooperation (ES) and a chestnut association (IT). By drawing upon these three innovation projects we show that in all three cases, specific conglomerates of different types of institutions had decisive impacts on their realisation. The innovations were developed by associations and cooperatives of producers that in the first two cases were supported by private consulting companies and in the third case by a municipality. To date, the scholarly literature on the role of institutions in innovations has focused on the institutions as external support. However, our results show that at least in these three cases, institutions can also be part of the innovations themselves. Consequently, we claim that it is more fruitful to analytically examine institutions for innovation from two separate perspectives – first, from an external perspective, as they can influence the development of innovations through their support, and second, from an internal perspective, as part of the innovation itself, which we label therefore as “institutional innovation”.

Considering this distinction, we can confirm that a project’s success very much depends on the involvement and activities of a range of organised groups of actors in realms both within and outside the innovation. To become economically successful, institutional innovations are labour intensive and time-consuming. They have a time span of 5-20 years, and they need specific support from “outside” institutional actors.


Institutional Innovation, Associations, Cooperation, Non-Wood Forest Products (NWFP), Innovation Support

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