In the pursuance of sustainable development, knowledge development and learning are often central activities. Moreover, this is organised in sustainability clusters that are groups of related companies that aim to increase the sustainability of their firms, value chains and territories, supported by stakeholders from public authorities, science, society and business. The thesis Territorial knowledge governance: pursuing sustainability in agriculture and food clusters aims to improve the understanding of the principles and to what extent of the coordination that is established through knowledge and learning in the pursuance of the sustainable development of agriculture and food clusters, or territorial knowledge governance. The thesis addresses two knowledge gaps: 1) the underrepresentation of the coordinative and transformative aspects of knowledge and learning in modes of governance literature and 2) the underrepresentation of a territorial-economic approach in the literature on the governance of sustainable development transitions, especially regarding knowledge and learning.
The thesis makes use of on an iterative research design. Each research step consisted of theoretical explorations and case studies that were evaluated afterwards to select the next research activities. The data collection and analysis has two pillars: 1) a literature research on theories of modes of governance, knowledge, learning, innovation, and territorial development and 2) a comparative case study analysis.
The thesis presents an analytical framework for analysing territorial knowledge governance, especially in relation to sustainable development and agriculture and food clusters. The coordinative principles of territorial knowledge governance have been defined in this framework as: 1) the setting of sustainable development missions, 2) the production and exchange of knowledge in supportive milieus, 3) the embedding of substantive knowledge, 4) the anchoring of significant knowledge, and 5) the feeding of the acquired significant knowledge into the (re-) design of institutions and strategies of policy design and implementation. Moreover, constraints, enablers and type of results are presented. It is concluded that territorial knowledge governance is especially suited to complex challenges, such as sustainable development, because it is able to open new pathways for sustainable development, through the establishment of alignment between cluster actors around a shared vision and mission that emerges during knowledge-based endeavours in the sustainable development in agriculture and food. Time-aspects and the institutions that enable or constraint territorial knowledge are identified as major issues for future research, especially in relation to the highly complex settings in which cluster actors act from perspectives, habits, capabilities, beliefs and ambitions that tend to oppose the implementation of sustainable territorial development missions.