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Claudia Díaz-Peréz, Brian Wixted and J. Adam Holbrook

This chapter investigates the unique development of Vancouver’s fuel cell cluster, going back to the early 1980s. At that time, important national research and development programmes were launched and local pioneering firms acted as technology change agents. Vancouver developed a leadership position due to favourable living conditions and the importance attached worldwide to fuel cell technology and hydrogen, including considerable funding from the Canadian government and European car manufacturers. However, two conditions started to weaken the pre-commercial cluster, namely, competition from battery-electrical and hybrid vehicles, and a lack of fuelling infrastructure. Once support by the national government dwindled, the Vancouver cluster seemed not able to grow independently and reach maturity. Thus, the attractiveness of local conditions could not overcome basic competition between and among technologies. However, while the cluster is shrinking, car manufacturers are still investing and releasing prototypes, and new local initiatives building on existing leading edge technology are also being undertaken.

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Marloes Dignum

This chapter addresses local initiatives supported by city governments. It introduces urban platform intermediaries (UPIs) as strategic intermediaries enhancing the realization of sustainable energy aims, and it investigates their roles, actions and organizational position. With socio-technical transition as a starting point, a reflective framework to evaluate UPIs is developed, using two contrasting examples in Amsterdam: NewNRG and its spin-off ‘We’re Getting Chickens’ and Amsterdam Smart City and its project City-Zen. Amsterdam has high ambitions with regard to sustainable energy, but which is complicated by the need for degasification of the housing stock. With similar tasks of connecting actors, the initiatives show substantial differences in position. NewNRG has a bottom-up, grassroots character, and attracts mostly newcomers; however, it struggles to attract funding and organizational stability. ‘Established’ Amsterdam Smart City and its incumbent actors have the potential to upscale inventions and make innovations grow, but they are unlikely to initiate radical activities.

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Martina Fromhold-Eisebith and Ulrich Dewald

The focus of this chapter is on socio-technical niches and adoption of photovoltaics (PV) technology, presenting Germany as a case study. By taking a mainly institutional approach and by paying attention to different market segments, the bias in favour of urban areas in sustainability transition studies is avoided. Using eight dimensions, for example topographical nature, building and settlement features, economic structure, socio-economic entrepreneurship and policy agency, it is concluded that both urban and rural areas may enhance PV technology adoption, albeit in different ways. For example, rural areas can act as large-scale providers of ‘greenfield’ installations due to topographical/settlement characteristics. In the segment of civic corporate solar systems, as cooperatives, small-scale opportunities are provided for shareholder funding and local use of solar energy. A third segment, the small-scale roof-mounted systems, with home-owners and local installers as the main actors involved, is found in rural areas, medium-sized cities and in the fringes of larger cities.

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Razie Nejabat, Mozhdeh Taheri, Victor Scholten and Marina van Geenhuizen

This chapter deals with small high-technology firms introducing sustainable energy inventions to the market. The focus is on university spin-offs, which typically show weak skills in management and marketing, but strong technology skills – in this chapter, solar photovoltaics, wind energy, biomass and hydro-power. A simplified conceptual model is explored by focusing on institutional aspects (countries) and network access as well as firms’ entrepreneurial orientation. The exploration of time to market draws on a selected sample of spin-offs in northwest Europe using rough-set analysis. The results show that the highest probability for quick market introduction occurs in an ‘innovation leader’ country (Sweden, Denmark, Finland) and among spin-offs’ involved in multiple networks, followed by those with a practical orientation and access to substantial investment. There are no differences between entrepreneurial ecosystems in metropolitan areas and remote/small urban places. Rather, the results indicate a trend for compensation in ‘thin regions’ through long-distance networks and ‘workplace learning’.

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Marina van Geenhuizen, J. Adam Holbrook and Mozhdeh Taheri

This chapter presents the theme, theoretical approaches and overview of the chapters in the book. The theme is the contribution of cities (their actors) to increased sustainability in social-technical systems, eventually by accelerating sustainability improvements. The selected systems are energy, transport and healthcare. Cities may act as the cradle of key inventions, as places of up-scaling and commercialization and as places of quick adoption, though few individual cities take up all these roles. Next, several urban innovation theories are introduced, including agglomeration and cluster theories, and the relational (collaboration) approach, with the aim to ‘position’ the chapters. Specific attention is given to the entrepreneurial ecosystem approach. Complementary approaches are institutional and governance perspectives, in particular with respect to cities acting as institutional innovators. A final approach is the evolutionary approach, as invention, up-scaling, commercialization and adoption of new technology are concerned with long time-lines and manifold uncertainties.

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Marina van Geenhuizen and Qing Ye

This chapter investigates the conditions for mass-manufacturing in the solar photovoltaic (PV) industry in China since the early 2000s, specifically the cities’ role of ‘institutional entrepreneur’. China’s PV industry has grown tremendously thanks to a match between policy incentivization of local industry and rising global demand for sustainable energy. Several cities gained leadership in mass-manufacturing and this is illustrated in the chapter through case studies of two companies, Suntech Power and Yingli Green, in Wuxi and Baoding, respectively. In particular, Wuxi can be seen as an institutional innovator, as evidenced by its recruitment policy of Chinese talent from overseas and refined interaction with provincial and national policy in financial incentivization of domestic companies. Today, China leads in acceleration of adoption of solar energy in Europe and US, as it hosts about 70 per cent of global production of solar cells/panels. However, since around 2012, the industry has also seen restructuring to increase product quality and improve efficiency.

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Marina van Geenhuizen, Lili Song and Wim Ravesteijn

This chapter addresses the question regarding how seaports may move from a stepwise development to a leadership role in energy transition, as the Port Authority of Rotterdam (the Netherlands) wishes to do. A preliminary framework of conditions that enable a comprehensive shift, given involvement of a petro-chemical complex, is discussed. In Rotterdam’s vision, its new aim does not contradict economic development. Rather, growth is partially created through (niche) pilot projects and experimentation with new, low CO2, energy production and use, and spin-off effects. A crucial factor seems to be support by a national policy of rigorous reduction of CO2 production and emission. Next, the attention shifts to Shanghai (China) and how this port is performing with regard to sustainability changes. Radical shifts such as in Rotterdam seem impossible, however, stringent measures have been taken in Shanghai to increase sustainability in port activities. These measures are discussed and the dilemma of Shanghai is addressed.

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Marina van Geenhuizen and J. Adam Holbrook

This chapter summarizes the important findings of the previous chapters and identifies the different challenges in leadership roles of cities with regard to enhancing sustainability transitions. Accordingly, the discussion focuses on challenges in responding to favourable localized assets that are inherited, from nature or from past developments, and challenges in active city policies that connect and enhance seedbed functions, cluster formation/strengthening and bottom-up initiatives. Specific attention is given to the key condition of attracting and retaining talent, in other words a highly skilled and diverse workforce. The chapter closes with a discussion of factors that will enhance city leadership (in the future) and indicates a few important directions of future research.

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Mozhdeh Taheri and Marina van Geenhuizen

This chapter investigates the extent to which university spin-off firms in new medical technology reach the market and create job growth, for example, in support in care-providing, minimally invasive surgery, tissue engineering (organs), and information and communications technology (ICT)-supported diagnosis. The study draws on a small selective sample and employs rough-set analysis to identify preliminary causal patterns. One of the strongest influences seems the subsector indicating diversity in technical complexity (risk) and regulation (testing and approval), while management experience and access to venture capital also have a role. Furthermore, drawing on in-depth case study analysis, the preliminary conclusion is drawn that spin-offs in complex and risk-taking fields are able to survive in close research collaboration with the ‘mother’ university and/or academic hospital, and through this link, with universities and hospitals in global networks. Others that lack such relationship tend to be much more vulnerable, particularly due to healthcare budget constraints and firm-specific lack of management experience.

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Marina van Geenhuizen and Nick Guldemond

This chapter studies living labs as a methodology of user-centric innovation. The focus is on sustainability in healthcare and increasing efficiency, affordability and inclusiveness. The real-life environments are residential homes for elderly people, hospitals and a shopping mall, the latter as an example of increasing accessibility for wheelchairs. The chapter aims to identify critical factors in the performance of living labs, drawing on literature and in-depth case studies in Eindhoven and Maastricht (Netherlands), Copenhagen (Denmark) and Montreal (Canada). Important critical factors are: early involvement of users, including feedback from them, and sufficient involvement of a wider network of stakeholders with the required expertise/input. An appropriate selection of promising inventions is also important. A preliminary analysis of network building through living labs found a trend for both local and global networking, with an emphasis on the latter. These findings touch on a leadership challenge for local governments, namely as a ‘connector’ between different local/ regional organizations.