Centre for Organization and Time (COT)


‘Making Distant Futures Actionable’ (click here for more information)
’The Temporality of Food Innovation’ headed by Professor Tor Hernes and Professor Silviya Svejenova (funded by the VELUX Foundations)
Making Distant Futures Actionable:
Innovating for a Zero-Carbon Future (Novo Nordisk Foundation) 

Click here for the project's home page

Project management: Professor Majken Schultz, PI & project responsible; Professor Tor Hernes, project responsible.
Project members: Assistant Professor Miriam Feuls
Postdoc Sunny Mosangzi Xu, Postdoc Jonathan Feddersen
Funded by: The Novo Nordisk Foundation
Project period: 2021-2025

Industry has a critical role to play in accelerating the Green Transition, crucial to the creation of a knowledge-based sustainable society. Accelerating the Green Transition, depends on the ability of actors to create sustained mutual interplay between innovative solutions and distant climate goals. With barely more than a decade left to prevent long-term damage to the planet, there is an urgent need to understand how we can make distant futures actionable. “Making Distant Futures Actionable” is a project that investigates how on-going innovative solutions are integrated into long-term climate goals.

The overall purpose of the project is to obtain relevant, rigorous knowledge of the conditions under which actors create sustained interplay between long-term climate goals and innovative solutions. Research has amply demonstrated how innovative solutions may fail to fulfill their potential to contribute toward longer-term goals, if the solutions are not closely translated into the goals from an early stage, or distant goals are not sufficiently well narrated to frame innovative solutions towards those goals.

The project seeks answers to the following questions:

  1. How do focal actors (strategic level) translate long-term climate goals so that they frame innovative solutions?
  2. How do specialized actors (mainly operational level) translate innovative solutions into long-term climate goals through their activity?
  3. What specific management challenges arise from translating between innovative solutions and climate goals?

Developing solutions for a zero-carbon future requires collaboration between actors who rely on different technologies and temporal orientations. Therefore, the project will investigate how multiple actors create interplay between innovative solutions and long-term climate goals in specific collaborative projects across the following industries: Food, life science, and energy, which are all fundamentally important to a zero-carbon future.

The project incorporates a temporal lens premised on the idea that different actors working with solutions of different time horizons may complement one another in collectively achieving 2050 climate goals. The theoretical focus is to develop and apply the concept of “temporal translation” to theorize how actors can create sustained interplay between solutions with different time horizons. A broader scientific purpose is to develop a new research agenda that integrates concepts from temporality, innovation, and climate research in ways useful to both future research and society.

Partner Companies:
Arla Foods
Novo Nordisk
- Ørsted

International Research Partners:
- Professor Tima Bansal, Ivey Business School, Western University, Canada
- Professor Raghu Garud, Smeal College of Business, Penn State University, US
- Professor Daniel Nyberg, University of Newcastle, Australia
- Professor Juliane Reinecke , Saïd Business School University of Oxford
- Professor Jennifer Howard-Grenville, University of Cambridge, UK

The Temporality of Food Innovations (VELUX Foundations)

(In Danish: Innovationers Temporalitet)
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Co-leadersProfessor Tor Hernes & Professor Silviya Svejenova, Centre for Organization and Time, Department of Organisation (IOA), Copenhagen Business School
Sub-projects: Assistant Professor Iben Sandal Stjerne, Post Doc Miriam Feuls, Associate Professor Mie Plotnikof
Funded by: The VELUX Foundations
Project period: 2019-2021

Drawing on data from the Danish food sector, the project will investigate how, through a temporal lens, food innovations emerge and get sustained through processes across companies, events and public institutions. The empirical part of the project will address the research question:

How can the emergence and institutionalization of innovations in the Danish food sector be explained through the lens of temporality?

This question will be addressed through the empirical work of three sub-projects.

  • How do food organizations work to integrate different pasts and futures in their products, and how does this affect their innovation processes and outcomes? (sub-project 1)
  • How are traditions revived and ideas for the future revealed as novel practices emerge and diffuse at food events? (sub-project 2)
  • How are pasts and futures negotiated discursively in the legitimization and institutionalization of sustainable food as a field, and through which practices do these discursive constructions take place? (sub-project 3)

Food is an ideal context for studying the temporality of innovations because it combines focus on craft and tradition with focus on possible new futures with different technologies, practices, habits, and ways of organizing. Moreover, durable change in society depends not just on innovations to emerge, but also to become legitimated and institutionalised at multiple levels ranging from consumers via organizations to policy levels. For example, in recent years Denmark’s food sector has innovatively and successfully introduced ‘New Nordic Food’ by reviving long-forgotten techniques and ingredients, and inventing new ones, thereby bringing in new economic and work opportunities, and inspiring a cultural change in society. By drawing on the past and reinventing it, this innovation has opened up novel future ambitions and possibilities for food while building on Danish heritage in different food-related areas. 

The theoretical part of our project will address the more general research question: How can innovations be explained through the lens of temporality? This will be done through the theoretical work of the three sub- projects, which will be synthesized into a shared theoretical framework for the main project. Results from the project will be communicated at academic conference presentations and through high-ranked scholarly publications, as well as in essays and at events directed to food sector and general public audiences.


The page was last edited by: Department of Organization // 03/13/2023