What is 'protective space'? Exploring the politics of niche development in sustainability transitions: the case of solar electricity in the UK and the Netherlands.

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

Research output: Contribution to conferenceOtherAcademic

Abstract

Transitions theory emphasizes the important role of niches as sources of sustainable innovation. A defining niche characteristic is the provision of ‘protective space’. It is surprising that the concept of ‘niche protection’ has received little systematic attention to date. Drawing upon UK and Netherlands solar photovoltaic histories, this paper explores protection as having three functional properties: 1) shielding the niche innovation from mainstream selection pressures. 2) nurturing the development of the niche innovation, and 3) empowering niche advocates to influence mainstream selection environments. We develop ideas about how empowerment evolves. We distinguish between 1) empowerment concerned with removing protections as the niche innovation adapts and becomes competitive under prevailing regime selection pressures (fit and conform) and 2) empowerment concerned with transforming selection environments; protection become institutionalized as part of a new regime (stretch and transform). The analysis develops further by focusing on the political dynamics of empowerment. We conclude that niche advocates seeking empowerment employ narratives with three distinctive features: 1) articulating sociotechnical expectations in a positive, socio-political way; 2) making claims for niche-friendly institutional reforms; 3) critical statements about the regime in ways that emphasize opportunities for the niche innovation
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Event2011 Annual Meeting of the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S), November 2-5, 2011, Cleveland, OH, USA - Cleveland City Center Hotel, Cleveland, OH, United States
Duration: 2 Nov 20115 Nov 2011
http://www.4sonline.org/meeting/11

Conference

Conference2011 Annual Meeting of the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S), November 2-5, 2011, Cleveland, OH, USA
CountryUnited States
CityCleveland, OH
Period2/11/115/11/11
Internet address

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    Kern, F., Raven, R. P. J. M., Smith, A. G., Veraart, F. C. A., & Verhees, B. (2011). What is 'protective space'? Exploring the politics of niche development in sustainability transitions: the case of solar electricity in the UK and the Netherlands.. 2011 Annual Meeting of the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S), November 2-5, 2011, Cleveland, OH, USA, Cleveland, OH, United States.