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Xue Han and Jorge Niosi

Chapter 2 extracts the key points of the solar PV sectors in terms of industrial performance, technologies and regulations. This chapter acts as the foundation for understanding further specific studies in the following chapter.

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The Revolution in Energy Technology

Innovation and the Economics of the Solar Photovoltaic Industry

Xue Han and Jorge Niosi

The solar photovoltaic sector is moving forward very fast, both in terms of its own technological advancement and its standing among global renewable energy technologies. Rapid increases in solar cell efficiencies, fast technical change in solar batteries and solar glass, and economies of scale in production fuel its rapid adoption, and it is becoming clear that existing forecasts about its adoption need to be updated extensively. This timely and distinctive examination of the economic side of the field takes into account solar PV’s recent and growing lead among renewable energies competing to replace fossil fuels.
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Xue Han and Jorge Niosi

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Mats Benner

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The New Global Politics of Science

Knowledge, Markets and the State

Mats Benner

Science has become a central political concern with massive increases in public investments and expectations, but resources are embedded in a complex web of societal expectations, which vary between countries and regions. This book outlines an insightful understanding of science policy as both concerning the governance of science itself (priority-setting, funding, organization and articulation with polity, society, and economy) and its extra-organizational connections, in terms of higher education, innovation and national policy concerns.
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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.