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Towards a theory for transition regions in sustainable energy innovation : Comparing system innovation and innovation systems approaches

Author: Coenen, L. · Benneworth, P. · Diaz Lopez, F.J.
Institution: TNO Bouw en Ondergrond
Identifier: 443423
Report number: TNO Working paper series 2010-001
Keywords: Energy


Many of the findings in transition studies are interesting but have relatively little theoretical purchase, largely because of its linear logic and lack of spatiality. A lot of attention is directed to the so-called niche level because this is conceived as the level where innovations begin, which may subsequently influence socio-technical regimes and ultimately societal landscapes. This linearity runs the risk of reifying niche experiments by considering them as stand-alone agents of change which ignores that these experiments actually ‘take place’ over time and in context. As a result, transition theory and practice experiences severe difficulties to ‘upscale’ successful niche innovations towards broader and more widespread application in society. To address this lacuna, existing conceptual frameworks need to be enriched to capture the spatially uneven development processes engendered in transitions. Grounding transition theory in its spatial context will force it to address the question how and why sustainability experiments are performing differently in different geographical settings and, consequently, what the governance challenges are for translating localities into generalities and backwards and ultimately upscaling into mainstream regime practice. This poses a major theoretical challenge because there is a strictly limited literature on economic geography or regional innovation from a green perspective.