Handbook of Sustainable Innovation
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Handbook of Sustainable Innovation

Edited by Frank Boons and Andrew McMeekin

The Handbook of Sustainable Innovation maps the multiple lineages of research and understanding that constitute academic work on how technological change relates to sustainable practices of production and consumption. Leading academics contribute by mapping the general evolution of this academic field, our understanding of sustainable innovation at the firm, user, and systems level, the governance of sustainable innovation, and the methodological approaches used. The Handbook explores the distinctiveness of sustainable innovation and concludes with suggestions for generating future research avenues that exploit the current diversity of work while seeking increased systemic insight.
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Chapter 11: Technological innovation systems: a review of recent findings and suggestions for future research

Anna Bergek


In recent years, the technological innovation system (TIS) framework and its ‘functions approach’ has reached widespread diffusion among innovation scholars, especially those interested in sustainability transitions. It has so far been used frequently in studies of emerging sustainable technologies in the energy and transport sectors. This chapter provides some conceptual clarification regarding the functions framework, reviews the empirical findings of previous TIS studies and identifies topics to explore in future research. The review shows that a detailed understanding of the underlying mechanisms of some of the functions (‘entrepreneurial experimentation’, ‘market formation’ and ‘development of positive externalities’) is largely missing. More in-depth, qualitative analyses is therefore needed to identify causal chains of events within TISs. The review also reveals that the functions framework is not easily applicable to pure diffusion contexts, which suggests that the TIS framework should be supplemented by a ‘diffusion system’ framework.

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