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What is protective space? Reconsidering niches in transitions to sustainability

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  • Smith, Adrian
  • Raven, Rob
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    Abstract

    The transitions literature emphasises the role of niches, defined as a protective space for path-breaking innovations. Surprisingly, the concept of protection has not been systematically interrogated. Our analysis identifies effective protection as having three properties in wider transition processes: shielding, nurturing and empowerment. Empowerment is considered the least developed in current niche literature. It can be understood as either processes that make niche innovations competitive within unchanged selection environments (fit-and-conform) or as processes that contribute to changes in mainstream selection environments in ways favourable to a path-breaking niche innovation (stretch-and-transform). Adopting a more constructivist perspective, we subsequently argue that analysis of these properties needs to be complemented with particular attention for the politics involved in their construction. Attention to empowerment confirms the view that niche actors need to link to wider processes of social change, and suggests how this arises. The paper ends with an outlook upon two promising research avenues: (1) the reconstruction of niche development in light of the present framework; (2) analyses of the diverse (political) narratives seeking to empower niches across time and space.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Research Policy.

    Volume (Year): 41 (2012)
    Issue (Month): 6 ()
    Pages: 1025-1036

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:respol:v:41:y:2012:i:6:p:1025-1036

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    Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/respol

    Related research

    Keywords: Niche; Protective space; Empowerment; Narratives; Sustainability;

    References

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    Citations

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    Cited by:
    1. Bram Verhees & Rob Raven & Frank Veraart & Adrian Smith & Florian Kern, 2012. "Interrogating Protective Space: Shielding, Nurturing and Empowering Dutch Solar PV," Working Papers 12-04, Eindhoven Center for Innovation Studies, revised Sep 2012.
    2. Bram Verhees & Rob Raven & Frank Veraart & Adrian Smith & Florian Kern, 2012. "Interrogating Protective Space: Shielding, Nurturing and Empowering Dutch Solar PV," Eindhoven Center for Innovation Studies (ECIS) working paper series 12-04, Eindhoven Center for Innovation Studies (ECIS), revised Sep 2012.
    3. Reichardt, Kristin & Rogge, Karoline, 2014. "How the policy mix and its consistency impact innovation: Findings from company case studies on offshore wind in Germany," Working Papers "Sustainability and Innovation" S7/2014, Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research (ISI).
    4. Markard, Jochen & Raven, Rob & Truffer, Bernhard, 2012. "Sustainability transitions: An emerging field of research and its prospects," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 41(6), pages 955-967.
    5. Hermans, Frans & van Apeldoorn, Dirk & Stuiver, Marian & Kok, Kasper, 2013. "Niches and networks: Explaining network evolution through niche formation processes," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 42(3), pages 613-623.
    6. C. Hinrichs, 2014. "Transitions to sustainability: a change in thinking about food systems change?," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer, vol. 31(1), pages 143-155, March.
    7. G. Marletto, 2013. "Car and the city: Socio-technical pathways to 2030," Working Paper CRENoS 201306, Centre for North South Economic Research, University of Cagliari and Sassari, Sardinia.
    8. Weber, K. Matthias & Rohracher, Harald, 2012. "Legitimizing research, technology and innovation policies for transformative change," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 41(6), pages 1037-1047.
    9. Boon, Wouter P.C. & Moors, Ellen H.M. & Meijer, Albert J., 2014. "Exploring dynamics and strategies of niche protection," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 43(4), pages 792-803.
    10. Lopolito, A. & Morone, P. & Taylor, R., 2013. "Emerging innovation niches: An agent based model," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 42(6), pages 1225-1238.
    11. Fuenfschilling, Lea & Truffer, Bernhard, 2014. "The structuration of socio-technical regimes—Conceptual foundations from institutional theory," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 43(4), pages 772-791.
    12. Coenen, Lars & Benneworth, Paul & Truffer, Bernhard, 2012. "Toward a spatial perspective on sustainability transitions," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 41(6), pages 968-979.
    13. Garud, Raghu & Gehman, Joel, 2012. "Metatheoretical perspectives on sustainability journeys: Evolutionary, relational and durational," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 41(6), pages 980-995.
    14. Hess, David J., 2014. "Sustainability transitions: A political coalition perspective," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 43(2), pages 278-283.

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