Mixing and Matching Institutions: On institutional Hybridization Processes in Innovation and Transition Studies

Marjolein Johanna Hoogstraaten

Research output: ThesisDoctoral thesis 1 (Research UU / Graduation UU)


In innovation and transition processes institutional change is pivotal. This is especially true when it comes to the diffusion of radical innovations, as the properties of such innovations do not match existing institutional frameworks. The role of institutions and institutional change has been acknowledged and incorporated in innovation and transition studies. Traditionally, however, scholars in those fields have had a tendency to emphasize the structural deterministic influence of institutions on innovation processes. Institutional theory offers theoretical and empirical insights into both the structural influences of institutions and the agency that actors exert over institutions and institutional change. In relation to institutional agency, notions of institutional heterogeneity and institutional complexity are considered from a structural deterministic viewpoint, as they are presumed to influence change agents’ activities. When heterogeneous institutional elements are strategically combined, however, the resulting institutional hybridity becomes the object and goal of change. In this thesis, I explore institutional hybridity from an agency perspective. I define institutional hybridity as the mixture or (re)combination of institutional elements that occurs in innovation processes, facilitating innovations to diffuse. The novelty of this approach is that it emphasizes the agentic role of innovators vis-à-vis institutional complexity. In addition to the structural influence of institutional complexity, I argue that institutionally complex environments and the hybridization of institutions can be actively and purposefully created and leveraged by actors to foster innovation. I analyze the process of institutional hybridization by researching three empirical cases. Each case focuses on a different level of institutional analysis (macro, meso, micro) and a congruent institutional agency framework. I research institutional hybridity at the macro-level by investigating two intermediary organizations which coordinate product-development partnerships (PDPs) focusing on the development of drugs for neglected tropical diseases. To do so, they actively straddle public and private institutional logics within one hybrid organization. I apply the literature on hybrid organizing to analyze their strategies. I research MedTech entrepreneurs in their efforts to tackle healthcare challenges, which represents the meso-level of institutional hybridity as they straddle multiple regimes – in this case the (information) technology sector and the healthcare sector. For this case, I adopted the institutional work framework. Finally, I focus on the micro-level by adopting a categorical perspective and investigating producers of meat substitutes and their efforts to straddle the categories of meat – which meat substitutes explicitly reference – and the category of vegetarian and vegan products. I describe what implications can be derived from these cases for innovation and transition studies. I provide an overview of four important frameworks focused on institutional agency that I have incorporated in this thesis (i.e. institutional entrepreneurship, hybrid organizing, institutional work and strategic categorizing), relate them to the Multi-Level Perspective framework and highlight their analytical strengths and weaknesses when it comes to understanding processes of institutional hybridization. As such I clarify and strengthen the embedding of institutional theories in innovation and transition studies. Furthermore, I reflect on what these insights can mean in terms of optimizing innovative policies and provide avenues for future research.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Utrecht University
  • Frenken, Koen, Primary supervisor
  • Boon, Wouter, Co-supervisor
Award date24 Mar 2023
Place of PublicationUtrecht
Print ISBNs978-94-6469-231-0
Publication statusPublished - 24 Mar 2023


  • Innovation sciences
  • Institutional theory
  • Institutional agency
  • Institutional hybridity
  • Transition studies
  • Institutional entrepreneurship
  • Institutional work
  • Hybrid organizing
  • Category studies


Dive into the research topics of 'Mixing and Matching Institutions: On institutional Hybridization Processes in Innovation and Transition Studies'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this