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System Innovation and the Transition to Sustainability

Theory, Evidence and Policy

Edited by Boelie Elzen, Frank W. Geels and Ken Green

This book considers two main questions: how do system innovations or transitions come about and how can they be influenced by different actors, in particular by governments. The authors identify the theories which can be used to conceptualise the dynamics of system innovations and discuss the weaknesses in these theories. They also look at the lessons which can be learned from historical examples of transitions, and highlight the instruments and policy tools which can be used to stimulate future system innovations towards sustainability. The expert contributors address these questions using insights from a variety of different disciplines including innovation studies, evolutionary economics, the sociology of technology, environmental analysis and governance studies. The book concludes with an extensive summary of the results and practical suggestions for future research.
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Chapter 11: Socio-technical Scenarios as a Tool for Transition Policy: An Example from the Traffic and Transport Domain

Boelie Elzen, Frank W. Geels, Ken Green and Peter S. Hofman


11. Socio-technical scenarios as a tool for transition policy: an example from the traffic and transport domain Boelie Elzen, Frank W. Geels, Peter S. Hofman and Ken Green INTRODUCTION Modern societies face huge challenges related to existing socio-technical systems which are difficult to tackle without fundamental change. An example is in agriculture which exhibits various unsustainable features like BSE, foot and mouth disease, high nitrogen emissions, and so on. Another example is water supply, with symptoms like flooding, soil dehydration and quality problems. Also the transport system faces structural problems like congestion, atmospheric pollution (NOx and particulates), and CO2 emissions. Such problems are deeply rooted in societal structures and institutions and are closely related to societal processes. To solve such problems fundamentally requires transitions or system innovations as is argued in the fourth Dutch National Environmental Policy Plan (VROM 2001). A transition in this sense denotes a long-term development process in an encompassing system that fulfils a basic societal function like food production, mobility, energy, communication, and so on. A transition implies a drastic change of the technical as well as the societal and cultural dimensions of such a system. This emphasis on the coevolution of technical and societal change distinguishes transitions from more incremental processes of innovation which are primarily characterized by technical development (successive generations of technologies) with the societal embedding of these technologies changing relatively little (see Geels in this volume). From the sustainability perspective, an important question is whether transitions can be induced...

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