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 13: The role of users in sustainable innovation

Geert Verbong, Bram Verhees and Anna Wieczorek


The adoption of sustainable innovations is a highly dynamic process with uncertain outcomes. In order for the sustainability promises to materialize, users will play a key role as they have to embed these innovations in their daily practices and create (more) sustainable lifestyles. We present a typology of user roles in sustainable innovation: users can be active or passive, contribute as individual or collective, or act as enable or barrier. This typology presents a balanced and symmetric overview of all possible user roles, proposed in the literature. We also present and comment on a typology of positive user roles in sustainability transitions, proposed by Schot et al. This approach offers a long-term perspective on user roles, complementary to what is usually done in innovation studies; it credits users with more (distributed) agency. It also helps to identify new options for interventions in sustainable innovation and transition processes.

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