BUU33603 Ecological Innovation

(5 ECTS)


Eleanor Saunders                       

E-mail: ELSAUNDE@tcd.ie 
Office Hours: Fridays, 11-1pm

Module Description:

This module covers the concepts, theories and techniques of ecological innovation: Innovation within the context of the environment in which we live and are interconnected. In the future, no business will be able to operate without a conscious eye on the planetary boundaries in which we live, and learning to work within those boundaries is important to any developing business graduate.  

 The module is both theoretical and practical:  

  • The module begins with a study of innovation. The idea of ecological innovation is explored and critiqued. Systems innovation is addressed as a core innovation process for ecological innovation, but other methods of innovation are also relevant. 
  • The latter part of the module is a group project applying an innovation methodology (eg. Design for Planet, by the Design Council) in a business context.  

Learning and Teaching Approach:

Weekly workshop style lectures will be delivered through pre readings, group discussion, and class reflections. Learners will be required to read recommended articles and keep up to date with current innovation, business and sustainability trends. Class participation is expected. 

  • In the former part of the module an innovation lens will be applied each week and discussed with relevance to business practices and the environment. Teaching will be through lecture content, pre readings, and in lecture discussion.  
  • In the latter part of the module teaching and learning is grounded in group work. Groups will be guided by tasks provided in each weeks lecture slot based around an innovation methodology (eg. design for planet). Groups progress through weekly tasks to develop an innovation project. Stakeholder engagement and peer learning form a key element, with groups expected to reach out to both expert and lay people to gather opinions, input, expertise, and advice to progress. A Miro board will be provided to guide and support group work.  

 The challenge for the group work will be based around a business with examples provided.   

Learning Outcomes:

Having successfully completed this module, the student should be able to:

  1. Understand the key principles of innovation in an ecologically aware context
  2. Actively engage with and be able to apply the method of system innovation and speculative design
  3. Assess and research the challenges and opportunities available (locally and/or globally) in the context of ecological innovation
  4. Perform effectively in groups; displaying personal understanding and empathy, commitment, creative collaboration, and an ability to group-think

Textbooks and Required Resources: 

Required core course textbook and reading:

Meadows, D. Thinking in systems: A primer.  

White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green. (2008). 


The nature and variety of innovation (2018)


Global innovation index (2022)  


Doughnut economics (2023) 


Accelerate Green and the Green Awards (2023) 



The Irish public sector innovation strategy (2023) 


General Supplemental Readings

Climate Action Plan 2023 

Government of Ireland 


CAP 2023 summary 


Meadows, D, Meadows, D, Randers, J, and W. Behrens, W:  

The Limits to Growth (1972). 

Universe Books, New York 


Jamie P. Monat, Thomas F. Gannon. What is Systems Thinking? A Review of Selected Literature Plus Recommendations 

American Journal of Systems Science, 2015;  4(1): 11-26 



The module is completed by submission of: 

  • Multiple choice exam (40%) [Covering readings and content from lectures 1 – 4] 
  • Group project (60%) [Template provided] 

The exam is individual.

The group project is carried out in self-assigned groups (set up through blackboard). 

Groups have (on average) 6 people.  

All group members will receive the same grade, however members can receive 0 if they do not participate.  

 Final deadlines:  

  • Exam: Mid term 
  • Group project: End of term 

 Please Note: Guidelines on assignment requirements, completion and grading criteria are provided on Blackboard. Additional details on the specific deliverables in relation to assignments will also be discussed in class.