Social innovation in energy transition

19. Mai 2022

New paper co-authored by ZSI researchers published

Driving the theoretical and empirical discussion on social innovation (SI) forward is one of the key interests of ZSI. Based on the manifold project portfolio that ZSI is involved in, social innovation research concepts are constantly tested, assessed and re-examined by our researchers. Following this approach, ZSI researchers Wolfgang Haider and Stefan Philipp co-authored a paper together with Johannes Suitner from the TU Vienna on the role of social innovation in energy transition. Taking up project outputs of the FFG funded research project PLAISIR, the paper was accepted and published by the well-recognised Regional Studies Association Journal in a special issue on “Agency and Regional Development Against All Odds”.

Conceptualising SI in energy transition

In the paper the authors argue that SI is as important as technological innovation in energy transitions and that scrutinizing it calls for an agency perspective. Analysing two examples of SI in energy in Austrian non-core regions, the authors show how resources, relations and reflexivity enabled agency to promote SI and consequently sustain energy transition. The paper hereby takes an approach that reconciles territorial and organisational understandings of social innovation, delivering a new way of understanding the agency enabling SI as well as its territorial impact (see picture).

SI as a key for sustainable transition

The paper finds that SI produces new regional resources and capacities, provides directionality for transformative change, and herewith aids the consolidation of transition pathways. Hence, the authors conclude that agency and SI are key variables of sustainability transitions and transformative change that deserve more scholarly attention. Critically assessing transformative processes hereby means looking at the entrenched power relations that shape regional actor configurations and their associated agency motivations. The paper delivers a conceptual approach to do so and therefore provides an intriguing approach for further studies which will be tested and refined by ZSI moving forward.

The paper has been published in open access format and is retrievable here: Social innovation for regional energy transition? An agency perspective on transformative change in non-core regions

Suggested citation: Johannes Suitner, Wolfgang Haider & Stefan Philipp (2022) Social innovation for regional energy transition? An agency perspective on transformative change in non-core regions, Regional Studies, DOI: 10.1080/00343404.2022.2053096

Tags: energy transition, social innovation

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