The Governance of Socio-Technical Systems

The Governance of Socio-Technical Systems

Explaining Change

Eu-SPRI Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation Policy series

Edited by Susana Borrás and Jakob Edler

Examining the ‘who’ (agents), ‘how’ (policy instruments) and ‘why’ (societal legitimacy) of the governance process, this book presents a conceptual framework about the governance of change in socio-technical systems. Bridging the gap between disciplinary fields, expert contributions provide innovative empirical cases of different modes of governing change. The Governance of Socio-Technical Systems offers a stepping-stone towards building a theory of governance of change and presents a new research agenda on the interaction between science, technology and society.

Chapter 1: Introduction: on governance, systems and change

Susana Borrás and Jakob Edler

Subjects: economics and finance, evolutionary economics, institutional economics, innovation and technology, innovation policy, politics and public policy, public administration and management, regulation and governance


Why do we see so few electric cars on our streets today in spite of the overwhelming positive views on them? Why is it so difficult to introduce electronic patient journals in our hospitals or to phase out fossil-based energy sources? How come mobile telephones were developed and expanded so rapidly in the past two decades? How are integrated transport systems transforming commuting in large cities, and who contributes to that change? At a basic level these questions have to do with the way in which science and technology interact with society. It is commonplace today in social sciences literature that science, technology and society are constantly shaping each other in a truly co-constitutive process. However, these questions also have to do with the elements that form the socio-technical and innovation systems as well as with socio-cultural and economic aspects in the intentionality towards (or against) change. This book argues for the need for a better understanding of governance of change in socio-technical systems and innovation systems. It develops a conceptual framework to understand change and studies governance of change in a range of selected case studies that mobilize this framework. The notions ‘socio-technical system’ and ‘innovation system’ refer to the fact that individual technical artefacts or innovations are not operating in isolation. On the contrary, the functioning of technical artefacts and innovations is highly dependent on specific and complex ensembles of elements in which they are embedded.