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Modelling Socio-Technical Transition Patterns and Pathways




We report on research that is developing a simulation model for assessing systemic innovations, or 'transitions', of societal systems towards a more sustainable development. Our overall aim is to outline design principles for models that can offer new insights into tackling persistent problems in large-scale systems, such as the European road transport system or the regional management of water resources. The systemic nature of these problems is associated with them being complex, uncertain and cutting across a number of sectors, and indicates a need for radical technological and behavioural solutions that address changes at the systems level rather than offering incremental changes within sub-systems. Model design is inspired by recent research into transitions, an emerging paradigm which provides a framework for tackling persistent problems. We use concepts from the literature on transitions to develop a prototype of a generic 'transition model'. Our prototype aims to capture different types of transition pathways, using historical examples such as the transition from horse-drawn carriages to cars or that from sailing ships to steam ships. The model combines agent-based modelling techniques and system dynamics, and includes interactions of individual agents and sub-systems, as well as cumulative effects on system structures. We show success in simulating different historical transition pathways by adapting the model's parameters and rules for each example. Finally, we discuss the improvements necessary for systematically exploring and detailing transition pathways in empirical case-study applications to current and future transitions such as the transition to a sustainable transport system in Europe.

Suggested Citation

  • Noam Bergman & Alex Haxeltine & Lorraine Whitmarsh & Jonathan Köhler & Michel Schilperoord & Jan Rotmans, 2008. "Modelling Socio-Technical Transition Patterns and Pathways," Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, vol. 11(3), pages 1-7.
  • Handle: RePEc:jas:jasssj:2008-1-3

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Rotmans, J., 2005. "Societal Innovation: between dream and reality lies complexity," ERIM Inaugural Address Series Research in Management 7293, Erasmus Research Institute of Management (ERIM), ERIM is the joint research institute of the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University and the Erasmus School of Economics (ESE) at Erasmus University Rotterdam..
    2. Smith, Adrian & Stirling, Andy & Berkhout, Frans, 2005. "The governance of sustainable socio-technical transitions," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 34(10), pages 1491-1510, December.
    3. repec:cup:apsrev:v:99:y:2005:i:02:p:263-281_05 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Paul Weaver & Jan Rotmans & John Turnpenny & Andrew Jordan & Alex Haxeltine, 2007. "Methods and Tools for Integrated Sustainability Assessment (MATISSE): A New European Project," Chapters,in: Impact Assessment and Sustainable Development, chapter 9 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    5. Geels, Frank W. & Schot, Johan, 2007. "Typology of sociotechnical transition pathways," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 36(3), pages 399-417, April.
    6. Malte Schwoon, 2005. "Simulating the Adoption of Fuel Cell Vehicles," Working Papers FNU-59, Research unit Sustainability and Global Change, Hamburg University, revised Feb 2006.
    7. Paul Diederen & Hans Van Meijl & Arjan Wolters & Katarzyna Bijak, 2003. "Innovation adoption in agriculture : innovators, early adopters and laggards," Cahiers d'Economie et Sociologie Rurales, INRA Department of Economics, vol. 67, pages 29-50.
    8. Jonathan Kohler, Michael Grubb, David Popp and Ottmar Edenhofer, 2006. "The Transition to Endogenous Technical Change in Climate-Economy Models: A Technical Overview to the Innovation Modeling Comparison Project," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Special I), pages 17-56.
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    1. repec:gam:jsusta:v:9:y:2017:i:7:p:1254-:d:105068 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Bale, Catherine S.E. & Varga, Liz & Foxon, Timothy J., 2015. "Energy and complexity: New ways forward," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 138(C), pages 150-159.
    3. Köhler, Jonathan & Whitmarsh, Lorraine & Nykvist, Björn & Schilperoord, Michel & Bergman, Noam & Haxeltine, Alex, 2009. "A transitions model for sustainable mobility," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(12), pages 2985-2995, October.
    4. Papachristos, George & Adamides, Emmanuel, 2016. "A retroductive systems-based methodology for socio-technical transitions research," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 108(C), pages 1-14.
    5. Lopolito, A. & Morone, P. & Taylor, R., 2013. "Emerging innovation niches: An agent based model," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 42(6), pages 1225-1238.
    6. Scrieciu, S. Şerban & Barker, Terry & Ackerman, Frank, 2013. "Pushing the boundaries of climate economics: critical issues to consider in climate policy analysis," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 85(C), pages 155-165.
    7. Lisa-Britt Fischer & Jens Newig, 2016. "Importance of Actors and Agency in Sustainability Transitions: A Systematic Exploration of the Literature," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 8(5), pages 1-21, May.
    8. Safarzyńska, Karolina & Frenken, Koen & van den Bergh, Jeroen C.J.M., 2012. "Evolutionary theorizing and modeling of sustainability transitions," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 41(6), pages 1011-1024.
    9. Li, Francis G.N. & Trutnevyte, Evelina & Strachan, Neil, 2015. "A review of socio-technical energy transition (STET) models," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 100(C), pages 290-305.
    10. Walrave, Bob & Raven, Rob, 2016. "Modelling the dynamics of technological innovation systems," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 45(9), pages 1833-1844.
    11. repec:gam:jsusta:v:8:y:2016:i:5:p:476:d:69989 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. Busch, Jonathan & Roelich, Katy & Bale, Catherine S.E. & Knoeri, Christof, 2017. "Scaling up local energy infrastructure; An agent-based model of the emergence of district heating networks," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 100(C), pages 170-180.
    13. Ringler, Philipp & Keles, Dogan & Fichtner, Wolf, 2016. "Agent-based modelling and simulation of smart electricity grids and markets – A literature review," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 57(C), pages 205-215.


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