The rise of accelerated energy innovation and its implications for innovation theory
Mark Winskel – University of Edinburgh
This paper considers the changing dynamics of energy innovation under accelerated change imperatives. It also reflects on the role of innovation theory in sociotechnical system change, in the context accelerated change imperatives. It will consider the possibility that prominent sustainable innovation theories, because they articulate an essentially niche-led account of sociotechnical system change, offer a partial view of innovation dynamics for highly coupled sociotechnical systems under accelerated innovation imperatives. This will be considered by reference to the development of policies and institutions for accelerated energy innovation in the UK.
Under urgent change imperatives, increasingly co-ordinated regime-led innovation systems have been instituted in the UK energy sector, yet innovation theories (and a large body of empirical research based on those theories) are disinclined to fully interrogate the dynamics of regime-led sociotechnical system change. In this context, prominent innovation researchers and practitioners have offered prescriptions for accelerated change which implicitly or explicitly challenge the niche-led account. A widening gulf between policy imperatives and ontological commitments may risk leaving much of prevailing innovation theory marginal to policymaking for accelerated innovation.
Issues for consideration in the paper are: the manifestation of the ‘accelerated innovation’ imperative in changing sustainable innovation journeys within highly coupled sociotechnical systems; the extent of the challenge to niche-led accounts presented by accelerated change imperatives; and the implications for innovation theory and its relationship to innovation policymaking. Overall, the paper will reflect on the question of how innovation theory might respond to accelerated change imperatives, and how it might engage with policymakers in addressing the accelerated change agenda.
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