Experimenting for Sustainable Transport: The Approach of Strategic Niche Management

Experimenting for Sustainable Transport: The Approach of Strategic Niche Management

Experimenting for Sustainable Transport: The Approach of Strategic Niche Management

Experimenting for Sustainable Transport: The Approach of Strategic Niche Management

Synopsis

Technological change is a central feature of modern societies and a powerful source for social change. There is an urgent task to direct these new technologies towards sustainability, but society lacks perspectives, instruments and policies to accomplish this. There is no blueprint for a sustainable future, and it is necessary to experiment with alternative paths that seem promising. Various new transport technologies promise to bring sustainability benefits. But as this book shows, important lessons are often overlooked because the experiments are not designed to challenge the basic assumptions about established patterns of transport choices. Learning how to organise the process of innovation implementation is essential if the maximum impact is to be achieved - it is here that strategic niche management offers new perspectives. The book uses a series of eight recent experiments with electric vehicles, carsharing schemes, bicycle pools and fleet management to illustrate the means by which technological change must be closely linked to social change if successful implementation is to take place. The basic divide between proponents of technological fixes and those in favour of behavioural change needs to be bridged, perhaps indicating a third way.

Excerpt

This book grew out of a dissatisfaction with the way insights gained from technology studies, evolutionary economics, constructivist sociology and history of technology are put to use in the policy realm, or in fact, are hardly used. It is our belief that scholars must transform their insights into enlightening and flexible tools that can be taken up by practitioners working in governments, in businesses, NGOs and other organizations. the philosophical justifica-tion for most technology policy activities has remained unchanged for decades: because various forms of market failure lead to underinvestment in research and development (R&D), governments must stimulate such investments. An additional role often assigned to government is to educate users and wider publics to accept and embrace new solutions coming from R&D investments.

In our view, over-emphasis on issues of market failure and user acceptance has resulted in the neglect of other new and promising technology policy options, especially in the area of sustainable development. Here, new theoretical insights underscore the importance of shaping technological content, enabling the articulation and construction of new user needs and defining and negotiating the course towards sustainable development. These processes are neither purely technical, nor simple exercises in the diffusion of knowledge. Effective technology policy, in our view, is an open learning process, a series of experiments with the introduction of new technologies. Our book develops a tool - Strategic Niche Management - to help think about these learning processes. It offers a number of suggestions on how to set-up experiments. It also gives the reader access to theoretical insights, and case studies of actual experiments showing how these insights help to understand and explain what is going on.

This book has a long history. the idea of Strategic Niche Management developed out of a research programme developed at the University of Twente in the Netherlands collaborating with merit, University of Maastricht in the mid-1990s. Strategic Niche Management is part of an attempt to understand better technical change and its relationship to economic and societal changes. This goal is simple: to help various actors in society to build more constructive relationships with new technologies, saving them from the naive belief in either the transformative myth of the 'technical fix' or the destructive criticism that new technologies cannot be part of any solution.

This book grew out of a project supported by the European Commission, dg xii, within the area 'Human Dimensions of Environmental Change' of the

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