Author: GEIST

Competing terms for complementary concepts? Acceptance and legitimacy of low-carbon energy technologies

by Sven Alsheimer, Tamara Schnell, Camilla Chlebna and Sebastian Rohe

The large-scale deployment of low-carbon energy technologies is crucial for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and ideally limiting climate change. The success of this transition towards a carbon-neutral society depends on how these technologies are perceived by civil society and whether key societal stakeholders support or oppose their roll-out. Two major debates addressing this issue revolve around the concepts of acceptance and legitimacy. Acceptance literature examines the drivers and levels of support of novel technologies and socio-technical systems. Legitimacy literature captures how these technologies are aligned to their institutional environment. Thus far, there is little cross-fertilisation between the two debates. For this contribution, we conducted a systematic literature review of the two research streams to gain a better understanding of how the social dynamics of low-carbon energy technology deployment are conceptualised. Our review involved the analysis of 240 articles from SCOPUS that empirically studied the acceptance or legitimacy of low-carbon energy technologies. Our findings suggest that the two literature strands are indeed rather disconnected – few articles use both concepts conjointly. They further illustrate that both have distinct research foci and intellectual roots. Acceptance studies tend to focus on individual perspectives towards specific technologies and relate these to the individuals’ backgrounds. In contrast, legitimacy studies tend to focus on the overall alignment of specific technologies or entire innovation systems with the institutional context. Based on our findings, we propose a framework, to allow for a better understanding of the dynamic interplay between macro-level legitimacy evaluations and micro-level acceptance evaluations.

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Cite as: Alsheimer et al. (2023) Competing terms for complementary concepts? Acceptance and legitimacy of low-carbon energy technologies. GEIST – Geography of Innovation and Sustainability Transitions, 2023(01), GEIST Working Paper series.

Rethinking regional economic resilience: Preconditions and processes shaping transformative resilience

by Michaela Trippl, Sebastian Fastenrath and Arne Isaksen

The unpredictable impacts of slow-burn processes such as climate change and sudden shocks such as the current COVID-19 crisis have led to a renewed interest into regional economic resilience. Much of the literature focuses attention on how regional economies and industries could bounce back, that is, how they could return to their pre-shock conditions. Other scholars have proposed to construe resilience as bouncing forward to capture the mechanisms and processes that underpin positive adaptation and structural change in response to a crisis. In this article, we argue that both conceptualisations fail to consider shocks and crises as a window of opportunity for regional economies to transform to a radically different and more desirable trajectory. This paper brings a new perspective into play, that is, transformative resilience which places shifts towards more sustainable pathways centre stage. This understanding of regional economic resilience acknowledges that a crisis may bring about permanent structural change and it considers to what extent these transformations are to the benefit of society and the environment. This article seeks to identify in a conceptual way what factors and dynamics are vital for enhancing the transformative resilience of regions. To this end, we link recent insights from the debate on regional economic resilience to challenge-oriented regional innovation systems and elaborate on the role of pre-shock conditions and various core processes in building up regional transformative resilience.

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Cite as: Trippl M., Fastenrath S. and Isaksen A. (2022) Rethinking regional economic resilience: Preconditions and processes shaping transformative resilience. GEIST – Geography of Innovation and Sustainability Transitions, 2022(02), GEIST Working Paper series.

Guidebook for applying the Socio-Technical Configuration Analysis method

by Johan Miörner, Bernhard Truffer, Christian Binz, Jonas Heiberg and Xiao-Shan Yap

This working paper is part of the Socio-Technical Configuration Analysis (STCA) guidebook for beginners (see stca.guide). It serves as Chapter 1 of the guidebook, and introduces the conceptual and methodological foundations for the different analytical steps that are explained in subsequent chapters. We elaborate on the theoretical contexts in which socio-technical configurations, their dynamics and geographical variation play a key role and how this epistemological approach relates to well-established conceptual frameworks from innovation and transition studies. In STCA, statements or actions of actors that are reported in document stocks are aggregated into different forms of network or proximity map graphs, which can be interpreted as coherent storylines or strategies reflecting institutionalized socio-technical configurations shared by various actors. Shifts over time of these networks can then be interpreted as depicting transition dynamics, and comparisons across space as local variations of regime or innovation system structures. The paper introduces a coherent terminology to help researchers navigate through the different steps and software programs. It furthermore elaborates on a typology of research problems that can be analyzed through STCA and an overview on the generic steps that a researcher has to conduct when applying the method.

Download paper: Guidebook for applying the Socio-Technical Configuration Analysis method

Cite as: Miörner J., Truffer T., Binz C., Heiberg J. & Yap X.-S. (2022) Guidebook for applying the Socio-Technical Configuration Analysis method. GEIST – Geography of Innovation and Sustainability Transitions 2022(01), GEIST Working Paper series.

Understanding transformation patterns in different socio-technical systems – A scheme of analysis

by Johan Miörner, Christian Binz and Lea Fuenfschilling

Transitions literature shows important gaps when it comes to specifying how, and why, transformation processes play out differently in different sectoral contexts. This paper develops a heuristic for analysing a socio-technical system’s inherent transformative potential and for comparing transition trajectories in different socio-technical systems with each other. The framework draws on insights from transition studies and organizational institutionalism to specify three features of a socio-technical system which shape its inherent transformative potential and most likely transition trajectories: the degree of institutionalization of socio-technical configurations, their coherence, as well as spatial characteristics of the system as a whole. The contribution of the paper is threefold: 1) it develops a systematic understanding of the basic characteristics of a sector’s socio-technical system and how they influence the likelihood, nature, and speed of transition processes; 2) it provides insights to whether and how lessons derived from one sector can be used for understanding transitions in others; 3) it guides the identification of places and spatial scales at which transitions unfold and where leverage points for transformative change lie in different sectors. The framework is illustrated with empirical examples from existing literature on the water- and urban mobility sectors.

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Cite as: Miörner J., Binz C. and Fuenfschilling L. (2021) Understanding transformation patterns in different socio-technical systems – A scheme of analysis. GEIST – Geography of Innovation and Sustainability Transitions, 2021(11), GEIST Working Paper series.

Transitions as a coevolutionary process: the urban emergence of electric vehicle inventions

by Andrea Ferloni

The transition to Electric Vehicles (EVs) is a coevolutionary process involving at least three sectors—EV, battery, and smart grid—in replacing combustion cars. This paper contributes to research on the geography of transitions by linking increased relatedness between technologies over time with their co-location, exploring the spatial emergence of transition industries and the role of local economic systems in enabling it. Patent citations are used to construct three main paths from 1920 to 2020 that permit to geolocate key inventions and to elaborate on the role of cities in supporting knowledge exchanges and recombinations. The case study suggests that a coevolutionary perspective can contribute to understanding the geography of transitions in three ways: by showing how new technology configurations imply varying power relations between industrial fields, by elaborating on the capacity of urban regions to adapt to these, and by illustrating the role of actors and networks in this process.

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Cite as: Ferloni A. (2021) Transitions as a coevolutionary process: the urban emergence of electric vehicle inventions. GEIST – Geography of Innovation and Sustainability Transitions, 2021(10), GEIST Working Paper series.

The emergence of a global innovation system – a case study from the water sector

by Jonas Heiberg and Bernhard Truffer

Innovation studies is increasingly acknowledging the multi-scalar nature of the systemic contexts, in which innovations are being developed and deployed. This paper builds on and further develops a recently proposed framework for studying global innovation systems (GIS). It aims at explaining the emergence of a GIS by outlining the specific local resource-related conditions that lead to the creation of structural couplings, i.e. actors, networks and institutions that allow for multi-scalar resource flows. Deploying a qualitative case study, the paper investigates eight demonstration sites for an innovative wastewater treatment technology in North-Western Europe. It shows how resource-related deficits lead actors to draw on resources generated outside of their local context. The paper contributes to the literature on the Geography of Transitions by highlighting the importance of resource complementarities among different local contexts, as well as the crucial role of translocal systemic intermediaries in shaping emergent GIS.

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Cite as: Heiberg J. and Truffer B. (2021) The emergence of a global innovation system – a case study from the water sector. GEIST – Geography of Innovation and Sustainability Transitions, 2021(09), GEIST Working Paper series.

Global regime diffusion in space: a missed transition in San Diego’s water sector

by Johan Miörner, Jonas Heiberg and Christian Binz

Socio-technical regimes are potentially global sets of highly institutionalized rationalities that have co-evolved with actors, technologies and institutions. Transition studies features an extensive focus on regimes dynamics within specific territorial contexts. However, we know surprisingly little of how regime rationalities are constructed, diffused and reproduced across geographical contexts. This is a key gap in the literature on the geography of sustainability transitions, in explaining why transitions happen in some places and not in others. This paper introduces a conceptual model to analyze transformative opportunities in regions and how regime actors strategically diffuse and implement regime solutions through combinations of discursive- and system building activities. The empirical analysis draws upon a combination of Socio-Technical Configuration Analysis (STCA) of 354 newspaper articles and 10 in-depth interviews to illuminate how regime actors prevailed in diffusing and legitimizing the water sector’s dominant socio-technical configuration in San Diego during a period of substantial transformation pressure..

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Cite as: Miörner J., Heiberg J. and Binz C. (2021) Global regime diffusion in space: a missed transition in San Diego’s water sector. GEIST – Geography of Innovation and Sustainability Transitions, 2021(08), GEIST Working Paper series.

Geography of eco-innovations vis-à-vis geography of sustainability transitions: Two sides of the same coin?

by Hendrik Hansmeier

The need to develop and disseminate solutions to address environmental challenges such as climate change or resource depletion is more urgent than ever. However, the spatial dimension of pathways towards sustainability has only attracted scholarly interest in recent years, particularly through largely parallel research on the geography of eco-innovations and the geography of sustainability transitions. By systematically reviewing the literature, this article aims to compare both lines of research, devoting special attention to the role of regions and actors. While the geography of eco-innovations field focuses on local and regional conditions that enable the emergence of environmentally friendly technologies and industries, research on the geography of sustainability transitions highlights the place-specific but multiscalar nature of socio-technical change, taking into account the role of different actor groups. The review identifies numerous complementarities between both fields that may serve as starting points to further integrate geographical work on eco-innovations and transformative change.

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Cite as: Hansmeier H. (2021) Geography of eco-innovations vis-à-vis geography of sustainability transitions: Two sides of the same coin? GEIST – Geography of Innovation and Sustainability Transitions, 2021(07), GEIST Working Paper series.

Reconfiguring actors and infrastructure in city renewable energy transitions: a regional perspective

by Christina E. Hoicka, Jessica Conroy and Anna Berka

Cities as large centres of energy demand and population are important spatially and materially in a renewable energy transition. This study draws on available literature on material dimensions, energy decentralization, and regional approaches to provide a conceptual framework to analyse emerging city renewable energy transition plans for their material- and place-based actor scalar strategies. This framework outlines how the increase in renewable energy provided to cities results in new locations of productivity, interscalar relationships between new and centralized actors, and socio-economic outcomes. We use this to analyse 47 ambitious renewable energy transition plans in densely populated cities. Empirically, this study confirms that, for the most part, regions are important emerging actors in the decentralization of energy systems in a renewable energy transition; that city renewable energy transitions involve the forging of new economic relationships between cities and neighbouring communities and regions, and, as the community energy literature emphasises, that the involvement of a wide range of civic and local actors is important in shaping renewable energy transitions for cities. Further research can investigate how the institutional context is shaping these distinct actor material strategies and emerging interscalar relationships across regions. The socio-economic outcomes, particularly as they relate to new economic relationships between cities and the surrounding region and the re-spatialization of productivity and benefits, should also be examined.

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Cite as: Hoicka C., Conroy J. and Berka A. (2021) Reconfiguring actors and infrastructure in city renewable energy transitions: a regional perspective. GEIST – Geography of Innovation and Sustainability Transitions, 2021(06), GEIST Working Paper series.

Grasping transformative regional development from a co-evolutionary perspective – a research agenda

by Camilla Chlebna, Hanna Martin and Jannika Mattes

A comprehensive perspective of regional transformative development is pertinent in light of recurring crises and grand societal challenges. We propose an integrative research agenda for transformative regional development, based on a co-evolutionary perspective on industry-focused regional path development and transitions. Combining existing knowledge from the debates on evolutionary economic geography and transition studies we define three key dimensions of co-evolution: the interrelations between different paths and their impact, interregional and multiscalar development dynamics, and the interdependence between industries and society. We address each dimension separately and suggest concrete avenues for further research.

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Cite as: Chlebna C., Martin H. and Mattes J. (2021) Grasping transformative regional development from a co-evolutionary perspective – a research agenda. GEIST – Geography of Innovation and Sustainability Transitions, 2021(05), GEIST Working Paper series.