Results from the project
Malin Lindberg, Senior Lecturer in Gender and Technology, Luleå University of Technology (LTU)
What is the research project about?
“We will study how to develop and make a place more attractive from the perspective of the visitor, businesses and citizens. There are previous projects that have studied these elements separately: destination design focusing on the visitor, commercial development from a corporate perspective and regional attractiveness focusing on citizens, but the three pieces of the puzzle have rarely been brought together in a coherent concept such as place innovation.”
Can you describe what place innovation is?
“Destination design, which can be said to be about developing a brand for a whole destination, has often formed a central part of place branding. However, we believe that a wider grasp is needed in order to develop an entire place, that weaves together the needs and perspectives of all the people and organisations in that place. The whole becomes the identity of the place. Work to consciously develop that identity can attract visitors, businesses and residents in a more coordinated way.
The concept was developed by business developer Helena Karlberg in an earlier LTU research project on social innovation and is now being used and developed further by several organisations such as Stiftelsen svensk industridesign (SVID) [the Swedish Industrial Design Foundation] and LTU Business AB. We are seeing that the concept has great potential regionally, nationally and internationally – there are many calls for a holistic approach to place branding.”
Why is research into innovation in the hospitality industry important?
“Today, there is a great deal of research into innovation, but it is often a matter of technical product development in basic industries, manufacturing or IT. There is very little scientific knowledge on innovations in service industries such as the hospitality industry. The significance of the place for innovation and growth has certainly been noticed, but there are few studies on innovation in terms of new social approaches in relation to tourist destinations, for example. The concept of place innovation enables us to broaden our perception of what innovation is and thus increase our knowledge of the hospitality industry as an arena for innovation and social development. It can be a key to the breakthrough of the hospitality industry to the forefront of research in innovation.”
How will you proceed?
“We have an interactive approach to research, which means that we will develop new knowledge along with the stakeholders as the project progresses. A number of municipalities, destination companies and companies in Norrbotten and part of Västerbotten – within the region known as Swedish Lapland – are involved. At all stages, from data collection to analysis and dissemination of results, we bring the participants together at discussion seminars to jointly develop new knowledge and tools in place innovation.”
How can the hospitality industry benefit from the research?
“The hospitality industry has been undergoing a transformation over the past five years and there has been a kind of revolution in terms of how people think about developing destinations at a conceptual and strategic level. In northern Sweden, for example, they have succeeded in turning sparse geographical features and the cold climate into something positive that attracts visitors from far and wide. Through this research project, we want to help strengthen that conversion. We are doing this using new relevant knowledge and by developing practical methods. When you study more classical areas of technological innovation, it appears that the pace of innovation increases when researchers, businesses, the non-profit sector and government agencies work together.
Our goal is to produce tools that allow businesses, society and researchers to use place innovation in a practical way to develop new products and services from the holistic perspective of a place’s identity.”
What are your challenges?
“In all projects to develop innovations, the assumption is that we do not really know where we will end up. The point is to develop something completely new step by step. Another challenge is to come up with practical results and tools that everyone involved finds useful and rewarding that would not have been produced without the project.”
Tell us briefly about yourself
I am a Senior Lecturer in Gender and Technology and have been conducting research on innovation for ten years, focusing on social innovation in the past five years. Prior to that, I conducted research on gender aspects of innovation, which is now a popular area of research in Sweden partly thanks to strategic research funding from Vinnova.”
Åsa Ericson, innovation researcher at LTU in the field of service innovation and user-driven innovation
Helena Karlberg, Director of the Destination programme at SVID
More information on the project website.
Place innovations in Swedish Lapland
Luleå University of Technology
Apr 2015 – Mar 2017