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 16: Innovation and ecological impact: the case of automobility

Peter Wells


This chapter is concerned with innovation and sustainability in the automotive industry. It argues that growth in car ownership and use has overwhelmed incremental performance improvements in the efficiency of cars achieved through technological innovation. Consequently, deep and enduring reductions in carbon emissions and other ecological burdens are only likely if radical technical change is accompanied by and enabled through fundamental business model innovation which transforms the relationship between production and consumption in the realm of automobility. The chapter argues that the automotive industry is at the precipice of just such a transformation but that resistance and inertia in multiple aspects of the automobility system still act to retard the pace of change. Disruptive new entrants have also failed to destabilize the industry. Overall, a greater sense of policy urgency is needed along with a willingness to accept short-term economic losses as the industry transforms.

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