Struggling for space: solar photovoltaic niche developments in the Netherlands and the UK

A. Smith, F. Kern, R.P.J.M. Raven, B. Verhees

Research output: Contribution to conferenceOtherAcademic


One of the key areas of mission-oriented innovation policy is sustainability in general and climate change in particular. In response to this challenge many countries around the world are trying to develop and deploy renewable energy technologies to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. One approach to studying emerging alternative technologies and the build up of their respective socio-technical systems is the literature on sustainable niches (Lovell 2007; Smith 2007; Schot and Geels 2008; Verbong, Geels et al. 2008). The niche literature emerged with a concern for innovations for sustainability, where market contexts in particular are generally non-conducive to system building, and so niche spaces are required. A defining characteristic of these niches is that they afford temporary 'protective space' for the configuration and development of innovations (Schot, Hoogma et al. 1994). Initial protection is deemed essential, because pathbreaking innovations fail to successfully compete within selection environments of incumbent 'socio-technical regimes' (Schot and Geels 2008). Hence, the protective space is needed to shield the innovation against (some of) the prevailing selection pressures. Within this protective space, niche actors can nurture the path-breaking innovation so it becomes more robust through performance improvements and expansions in supportive socio-technical networks. As the innovation enters broader and more diverse markets, so the need for protection falls away progressively, and the innovation becomes competitive and influential in shaping wider contexts.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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