BUU33603 Ecological Innovation

(5 ECTS) 



Eleanor Saunders                       

E-mail: ELSAUNDE@tcd.ie 
Office Hours: Fridays, 11-13pm

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.  The primary methodologies covered are systems innovation and speculative design, although other methodologies can also be applied and will be touched on including design for planet and entrepreneurship theory.

The module is hands on and you will work each week to learn and then apply a tool for innovation. Over the module you will build up a practical understanding of this mindset and directly develop your assessment material. Innovation is a process in which concepts can be developed and applied through such tools as horizon scanning, opportunity assessment, learning loops, deeply ingrained stakeholder engagement, systems mapping, and leverage point identification. Innovation processes can lead to excellent ideas that are systemic in nature and thus better suited in the space of ecological sustainability.

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.

Learning and Teaching Approach:

Weekly workshop style lectures will be complemented by teamwork that takes each weeks concepts and builds it into a group project. Groups will be guided by the lectures and provided material to progress in their project and develop an innovation project.

Stakeholder engagement and peer learning will form a key element of the module content, with groups expected to reach out to both expert and lay people to gather opinions, input, expertise, and advice to progress.

Students will be required to read recommended articles and keep up to date with current innovation, business and sustainability trends. Class participation is expected

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:

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


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


General Supplemental Readings

Climate Action Plan 2021

Government of Ireland


CAP 2021 public summary


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

The Limits to Growth (1972).

Universe Books, New York



Graded by course work only due to the ‘hands on’ nature of entrepreneurship, and the collaborative nature of sustainability. There is no final exam for this module. The module is completed by submission of: 

  • Group video (25%) [2 – 3 minute video on group dynamics]
  • Group project (70%) [10-page innovation project]
  • Attendance and participation (5%) [This is an interactive module and students are required to be present for workshop style learning]

Groups have (on average) 6 people. All group members will receive the same grade

Ongoing assessment throughout the course as the group work develops: There are peer reviews that must be completed as part of the project development process and have a bearing on the final grade. 

Final deadline: 23rd April 2023