Advancing Sustainable-Smart Innovations Through a Transdisciplinary Learning Intervention: Insights From The Quintuple Helix Model




sustainable-smart innovations, design-based research, transdisciplinary learning, quintuple helix model, collaborative partnerships


The urgent need to shape the future of societies necessitates complex collaborative partnerships that co-create sustainable solutions. This whilst maintaining a balance between ecological, economic, and sociocultural concerns. The aforementioned creates complexity, calling for a transdisciplinary focus to circumvent the narrow lenses of disciplinary boundaries to develop new systems for educating young professionals. Within this context, we explore how a transdisciplinary learning intervention can result in sustainable-smart innovations that address real-world community challenges. To engage this question, we draw on findings from a longitudinal Design-Based Research (DBR) study that commenced in February 2020. Two iterations of this study have been completed and the third iteration commenced in 2023. Data is drawn from student project artefacts and reflections. This study utilises the potential of transdisciplinary student projects, between urban planning and information system students, and other stakeholders, to develop sustainable-smart innovations. It focuses on community challenges related to SDG 11 as experienced by marginalised township communities in Cape Town, South Africa. The study is founded on key concepts: Education for Sustainable Development, Transdisciplinary, Digital Social Innovations, Society 5.0,  and Inclusive collaborative partnerships. These concepts allow the interrogation of the complexities that reside in wicked problems related to the localisation of SDGs. The introduction of the quintuple helix model during the project's third iteration to analyse the wider contribution from different stakeholders and the shift to Mode 3 knowledge application in innovation is of special value. This model lends itself to transdisciplinary methodologies specifically to merge many voices toward sustainable-smart innovations. The co-creation of sustainable-smart innovations involves unifying various stakeholders from academia, industry, government and the community, to jointly develop and implement sustainable and technology-enabled solutions. The contribution of this paper lies in the expansion of discourse on innovations for sustainability through our engagement with the quintuple helix model in a transdisciplinary learning intervention.

Author Biography

Belinda Verster , Peninsula University of Technology

Dr Belinda Verster is a registered professional urban planner (SACPLAN) and currently works as a senior lecturer in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning. She engages in collaborative inter- and transdisciplinary research, innovation and decision-making with an emphasis on post-qualitative research method methods within vulnerable and marginalised communities.