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.
Download paper: Geography of eco-innovations vis-à-vis geography of sustainability transitions: Two sides of the same coin?
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.
by Sebastian Rohe and Camilla Chlebna
In transition studies, formal inter-organizational networks – ‘networking organizations’ – are considered essential for inducing socio-technical change. Yet, there is little research on how their structural composition and role evolve in advanced transitions and which tensions arise over time. We address these gaps by combining insights from network research in social and economic science with transition studies, where networking organizations are conceptualized as intermediaries and key elements of Technological Innovation Systems. We synthesize a framework capturing the evolution of and resulting tensions within networking organizations in sustainability transitions. It is applied to two regional energy networking organizations from Germany. We draw on qualitative expert interviews and a complementary social network analysis. We show that networking organizations do not necessarily stabilize once the initial technologies they were centered around become established. Instead, their member base broadens to different sectors. This can lead to tensions over the networking organizations’ scope. Tensions also arise from misalignments between ‘private’ goals of member firms and the ‘public’ goal of transforming system-level structures. Furthermore, complementary or competing networking organizations might emerge during the transition. Managers need to navigate these tensions and regularly review the networking organization’s mission to maintain its relevance in the transition process.
Download paper: The evolving role of networking organizations in advanced sustainability transitions
Cite as: Rohe S. and Chlebna C. (2021) The evolving role of networking organizations in advanced sustainability transitions. GEIST – Geography of Innovation and Sustainability Transitions, 2021(04), GEIST Working Paper series.
by Xiao-Shan Yap and Bernhard Truffer
Sustainability transitions research has increasingly adopted global perspectives on how to deal with sustainability challenges. However, “global” has so far been limited to Earth’s surface and atmosphere. We argue that transitions research should include developments that relate to the orbit and outer space (hereinafter also Space). The Space sector has grown substantially over the last decade in terms of the number of rocket launches, the diversity of actors involved or new essential services that depend on Space-based infrastructures. This entails fundamentally new opportunities to manifold industrial sectors, and enables developing countries to potentially leapfrog polluting industrial development pathways. At the same time, the expansion of the Space sector creates manifold sustainability pressures like atmospheric pollution, high energy consumption, or Space debris in the orbit. This led to recent surges in arguably “green” innovations such as reusable rockets, but also the development of new governance arrangements protecting outer space as a finite resource for humankind. This research note sketches major recent developments in the Space sector and points to promising avenues of research for innovation and transition studies, not only in terms of a new empirical application field but also as an inspiration for new theoretical insights and innovation policies.
Download paper: Opportunities and threats of the rapidly developing Space sector on sustainability transitions: Towards a research agenda
Cite as: Yap X.-S. and Truffer B. (2021) Opportunities and threats of the rapidly developing Space sector on sustainability transitions: Towards a research agenda. GEIST – Geography of Innovation and Sustainability Transitions, 2021(02), GEIST Working Paper series.
by Franz Tödtling, Michaela Trippl and Veronika Desch
The regional innovation system (RIS) approach has become a widely used framework for examining the dynamics of innovation across space as well as for crafting policies aimed at promoting the innovation capacity of regions. The dominant focus of RIS studies and regional innovation policies has been on technological innovation that drives competitiveness and economic growth. In light of persistent environmental and social challenges such as climate change, health problems, and growing inequalities, this narrow understanding of innovation appears to be obsolete. This article claims that the RIS approach requires critical rethinking and reassessment to provide a solid basis for informing the next generation of regional innovation policies. We explore how RIS scholarship and policies could benefit from engaging more deeply with an alternative understanding of innovation. Inspired by recent work on responsible innovation, mission-oriented and transformative innovation policies, we develop the notion of ‘challenge-oriented RIS’ (CORIS). In contrast to conventional understandings of RIS, this approach embraces a broader and more critical understanding of innovation, captures the directionality of change, opens up to new innovation actors and novel coordination mechanisms between various stakeholders and territorial scales, and pays more attention to the application side and upscaling of innovation within the region and beyond. Acknowledging that regions vary in their capacity to fashion transformative change and challenge-oriented innovation, the paper outlines new directions for place-based innovation policies.
Download paper: New directions for RIS studies and policies in the face of grand societal challenges
Cite as: Tödtling F., Trippl M. and Desch V. (2021) New directions for RIS studies and policies in the face of grand societal challenges. GEIST – Geography of Innovation and Sustainability Transitions, 2021(01), GEIST Working Paper series.