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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Science, Technology and Innovation Studies

Postgraduate Course: Innovation in Sustainable Food Systems (PGSP11400)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe sustainability and resilience of food systems is increasingly coming into question, not least following the COVID-19 pandemic, but also in the face of climate change impacts. Food systems are complex and involve a vast range of stakeholders, including among others, individual consumers, large food processing companies, farming units and the natural and social environments surrounding them. This course seeks to take an innovation lens to the food system and examining the various ways of understanding how innovation takes place, and what factors influence the direction of innovation for a more sustainable food system. We consider conceptual approaches such as Rogers` theory of Innovation, Networks of Practice, Agricultural Innovation Systems, Co-innovation and Multi-Level Perspective to help analyse innovation processes.
Course description Ensuring food supplies in a sustainable and equitable manner in the face of climate change driven events is one of the key challenges facing societies in the 21st Century. While often posed as a production led innovation challenge, at least as important are the societal contexts, including changing patterns of consumption. This course considers sustainable food systems and food security from a wide range of perspectives, examining farming as a social practice, as commercial food production, as a contribution and challenge to environmental policy and as an integral part of sustainable and healthy consumption. Innovation is examined in both its scientific and social aspects.

Outline Content:

1. Introduction: the context of innovation

2. Farmers and Scientists: applying new ideas, techniques and technologies

3. Farmers and environmental impact - scales of change

4. Sustainable food production systems

5. Agricultural Innovation Systems

6. Resilience of the food system

7. Alternative Food Networks

8. Sustainable Consumption

9. People and livestock

10. Biotechnology

The course is taught through lectures and workshop/seminar activities. The workshops or seminar activities are intended to give case studies or practical exercises related to the material in the taught component. The case studies and further reading material provided is also intended to broaden the range of perspectives to different situations and countries. The course is interdisciplinary and open to students with backgrounds in social sciences, natural sciences and the humanities, no prior knowledge of agriculture or innovation studies is presumed.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2024/25, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  30
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 20, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 176 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Coursework: 100%
Consisting of a 1000 word policy briefing (20% marks) and 3,000 word final essay (80% marks).

Feedback Feedback on the policy briefing will be available in time to inform the final essay. Students will have the option of submitting a 500 word formative essay outline in preparation for the final essay.
The essay question will be broadly framed to allow students to focus on an area that is of particular interest to them.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate critical awareness of the range of social contexts within which food production operates and the challenges of knowledge exchange within food production systems
  2. Demonstrate extensive, detailed and critical knowledge of different dimensions of sustainable food production systems and the implications for innovation.
  3. Demonstrate ability to identify, conceptualise and offer new and creative insights into innovation in food production systems.
  4. Demonstrate ability to communicate using appropriate style and language for different audiences within a food production system.
  5. Demonstrate ability to take responsibility for their own work.
Reading List
Basso, B., Antle, J. (2020) Digital agriculture to design sustainable agricultural systems. Nature Plants 3: 254-256.

Benton, T.G. & Bailey R., (2019) The paradox of productivity: agricultural productivity promotes food system inefficiency. Global Sustainability 2, e6, 1-8.

Bitzer, V. and Bijma,. J. (2015) From innovation to co-innovation? An exploration of African agrifood chains. British Food Journal 117(8):2182-2199.

Macnaghten, P. and Habets, M.G.L.J. (2020) Towards a forward-looking governance framework for gene editing with plants. Plants, People, Planet 2: 353-365

Oreszczyn, S., Lane, A. and Carr, S. (2010) The role of networks of practice and webs of influencers on farmers engagement with and learning about agricultural innovations. Journal of Rural Studies 26:404-417

Schewe, R.L. & Stuart. D. (2015) Diversity in agricultural technology adoption: How are automatic milking systems used and to what end? Agriculture & Human Values 32:199-213.

Smith, A. (2006) Green niches in sustainable development: the case of organic food in the United Kingdom. Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy 24:439-358.

Tziva, M. et al., 2020. Understanding the protein transition: the rise of plant-based meat substitutes. Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions 35: 217-231.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Ann Bruce
Tel: (0131 6)50 9106
Course secretaryMs Maria Brichs
Tel: (0131 6)51 3205
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