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System Innovation and the Transition to Sustainability

Theory, Evidence and Policy Edited by Boelie Elzen, Senior Researcher, School of Business, Public Administration and Technology, University of Twente, the Netherlands, Frank W. Geels, Professor of System Innovation and Sustainability, University of Manchester, UK and the late Ken Green, formerly Professor of Environmental Innovation Management, Alliance Manchester Business School, University of Manchester, UK
This book considers two main questions: how do system innovations or transitions come about and how can they be influenced by different actors, in particular by governments. The authors identify the theories which can be used to conceptualise the dynamics of system innovations and discuss the weaknesses in these theories. They also look at the lessons which can be learned from historical examples of transitions, and highlight the instruments and policy tools which can be used to stimulate future system innovations towards sustainability. The expert contributors address these questions using insights from a variety of different disciplines including innovation studies, evolutionary economics, the sociology of technology, environmental analysis and governance studies. The book concludes with an extensive summary of the results and practical suggestions for future research.
Extent: 336 pp
Hardback Price: $156.00 Web: $140.40
Publication Date: 2005
ISBN: 978 1 84376 683 4
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  • Economics and Finance
  • Environmental Economics
  • Environment
  • Environmental Economics
  • Innovation and Technology
  • Innovation Policy
Modern societies face several structural problems such as transport congestion and greenhouse gas emissions due to the widespread use of fossil fuels. To address these important societal problems and achieve sustainability in the broad sense, major transformations are required, but this poses an enormous challenge given the complexity of the processes involved. Such transformations are called ‘transitions’ or ‘system innovations’ and involve changes in a variety of elements, including technology, regulation, user practices and markets, cultural meaning and infrastructure.

This book considers two main questions: how do system innovations or transitions come about and how can they be influenced by different actors, in particular by governments. The authors identify the theories which can be used to conceptualise the dynamics of system innovations and discuss the weaknesses in these theories. They also look at the lessons which can be learned from historical examples of transitions, and highlight the instruments and policy tools which can be used to stimulate future system innovations towards sustainability. The expert contributors address these questions using insights from a variety of different disciplines including innovation studies, evolutionary economics, the sociology of technology, environmental analysis and governance studies. The book concludes with an extensive summary of the results and practical suggestions for future research.

This important new volume offers an interdisciplinary assessment of how and why system innovations occur. It will engage and inform academics and researchers interested in transitions towards sustainability, and will also be highly relevant for policymakers concerned with environmental issues, structural change and radical innovation.
‘. . . the book is very interesting to read and gives both flesh and bones to the concept of transition management. It is the book on transition management. It offers both an interdisciplinary framework for a scientific justification of the concept and gives some illustrative examples of how it works. This is valuable since the use of transition management is very fashionable, and often what is behind the concept is not really known.’
– Klaus Rennings, Science and Public Policy
Contributors: F.-M. Belz, L. Berchicci, F. Berkhout, H.S. Brown, A. Correljé, J. Edelenbos, B. Elzen, F.W. Geels, K. Green, P.S. Hofman, R. Kemp, S. Kivisaari, R. Lovio, J. Rotmans, E. Shove, A. Smith, A. Stirling, G.R. Teisman, E. Väyrynen, G. Verbong, P.J. Vergragt
Contents: Preface Foreword 1. General Introduction: System Innovation and Transitions to Sustainability Part I: Theoretical Explorations of Transitions 2. Understanding System Innovations: A Critical Literature Review and a Conceptual Synthesis 3. Socio-technological Regimes and Transition Contexts 4. Sustainability, System Innovation and the Laundry Part II: Empirical Examples of Transitions 5. A Transition Towards Sustainability in the Swiss Agri-Food Chain (1970–2000): Using and Improving the Multi-level Perspective 6. The Transition from Coal to Gas: Radical Change of the Dutch Gas System Part III: Transition Policy 7. Managing the Transition to Sustainable Mobility 8. Getting through the ‘Twilight Zone’: Managing Transitions through Process-based, Horizontal and Interactive Governance 9. Bounded Socio-Technical Experiments (BSTEs): Higher Order Learning for Transitions Towards Sustainable Mobility Part IV: Tools for Transition Policy and Empirical Illustrations 10. Managing Experiments for Transition: Examples of Societal Embedding in Energy and Health Care Sectors 11. Socio-technical Scenarios as a Tool for Transition Policy: An Example from the Traffic and Transport Domain 12. Conclusion. Transitions to Sustainability: Lessons Learned and Remaining Challenges Index