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Creative Destruction or Mere Niche Creation? Innovation Policy Mixes for Sustainability Transitions


  • Paula Kivimaa

    () (Finnish Environment Institute,P.O.Box 140,Fi-00251 Helsinki, Finland)

  • Florian Kern

    () (SPRU, University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton, BN1 9SL, UK)


Recently, there has been an increasing interest in policy mixes in innovation studies. while it has long been acknowledged that the stimulation of innovation and technological change involves different types of policy instruments, how such instruments form policy mixes has only recently. become of interest. We argue that an area in which policy mixes are particularly important is the field of sustainability transitions. Transitions imply not only the development of disruptive innovations but also of policies aiming for wider change in socio?technical systems. We propose that ideally policy mixes for transitions might include elements of‘creative destruction', involving both policies aiming for the ‘creation’ of new and for ‘destabilising’ the old. We develop a novel analytical framework including the two policy mix dimensions (‘creation’"and ‘destruction’) by broadening the technological innovation system functions approach, and by expanding the concept of ‘motors of innovation’. We test this framework by analysing‘low"energy’ policy mixes in Finland and the UK. We find that both countries have diverse policy mixes to support energy efficiency and reduce energy demand with instruments to cover all functions on the creation side. Despite the demonstrated need for such policies, unsurprisingly destabilising functions are addressed by fewer policies, but there are empirical examples of such policies in both countries. The concept of ‘motors" of creative destruction’ is introduced to expand innovation and technology policy debates to go beyond policy mixes consisting of technology push and demand pull instruments, and to consider a wider range of policy instruments which may contribute to sustainability transitions.

Suggested Citation

  • Paula Kivimaa & Florian Kern, 2015. "Creative Destruction or Mere Niche Creation? Innovation Policy Mixes for Sustainability Transitions," SPRU Working Paper Series 2015-02, SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex Business School.
  • Handle: RePEc:sru:ssewps:2015-02

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    Cited by:

    1. Wesseling, J.H. & Lechtenböhmer, S. & Åhman, M. & Nilsson, L.J. & Worrell, E. & Coenen, L., 2017. "The transition of energy intensive processing industries towards deep decarbonization: Characteristics and implications for future research," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 79(C), pages 1303-1313.
    2. Fuenfschilling, Lea & Truffer, Bernhard, 2016. "The interplay of institutions, actors and technologies in socio-technical systems — An analysis of transformations in the Australian urban water sector," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 103(C), pages 298-312.

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    innovation and technology policy; policy mix; sustainability transitions; energy efficiency; motors of innovation; technological innovation system (TIS);

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