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The empowerment dilemma of niche advocates
KTH, School of Industrial Engineering and Management (ITM), Industrial Economics and Management (Dept.), Industrial Management.
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Given sustainability challenges, it is crucial to develop sustainable technologies that reduce emissions and oil dependency and increase energy efficiency. Transition literature advocates creating niches where learning activities can occur, but internalniche development alone is insufficient. The niche empowerment concept has attracted attention for its utility in analyzing how alternative technologies with sustainability potential can diffuse beyond niches and become commercialized. As few studies consider how firms choose empowerment strategies, depending on their selection environments, this paper analyses business model barriers in niche projects implemented in different institutional contexts. This paper compares two electric road system (ERS) demonstration projects, analyzing how their contexts influence the niche advocate’s empowerment strategy. The projects were largely similar, suiting them for comparison, though their barriers to creating a business model differed, affecting the empowerment processes facilitating wider transition of the socio-technical regime. Analyzing the empirical data indicated that the niche advocate implemented two empowerment approaches in the two similar ERS demonstration projects: a “fit-and-conform” process in Gävle and a “stretch-and-transform” process in LA. The paper identifies a dilemma whereby no single niche empowerment strategy can overcome the business model barriers; accordingly, niche advocates must develop an empowerment strategy that simultaneously deploys both strategies.

Keywords [en]
Niche empowerment, business model barriers, electric road systems (ERS)
National Category
Economics and Business
Research subject
Industrial Economics and Management
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-225385OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-225385DiVA, id: diva2:1194734
Note

Submitted to Technological Forecasting and Social Change

QC 20180404

Available from: 2018-04-03 Created: 2018-04-03 Last updated: 2018-04-04Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Preparing for takeoff: Analyzing the development of electric road systems from a business model perspective
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Preparing for takeoff: Analyzing the development of electric road systems from a business model perspective
2018 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Electric road systems (ERS) are road transportation systems based on technologies that support electric power transfer from roads to vehicles in motion. Transition toward alternative technologies, such as ERS, is necessary in order to achieve the sustainability goals in road transportation. While several studies have emphasized that new business models are necessary in order to commercialize such technologies, they tend to neglect the fact thatmany of these technologies require socio-technical change, such as investments in alternative infrastructure.Hence, this thesis examines the relationship between business models and socio-technical change.

The research was explorative and based on two case studies investigating the development of ERS: a longitudinal case study in Sweden and an in-depth case study in Los Angeles, USA. The findings suggest different roles that business models can have in different types of projects when preparing ERS for commercial takeoff: first, new business models were not part of the pilot projects which focused on radical innovation; second, business models were developed in demonstration projects with user interactions; and, third, business models were evaluated, and in this case rejected, in a deployment project aiming to transform the existing socio-technical system.

Given these findings, this thesis argues that the business model concept could be used as a perspective from which to understand the evolutionary processes that take place during the early phases of transition, and that the challenges of commercializing and deploying systemic innovations, such as ERS, are more complex than often accounted for in the business model and sustainability transition literature.

This thesis also discusses whether or not ERS is likely to take off. Thereby, this research nuances our view of predevelopment processes of a niche innovation before it has actually taken off and improves our understanding of what hinders and enables sustainable transitions.

Abstract [sv]

Elvägssystem (ERS) är vägtransportsystem med tekniker som levererar ström från vägar till de fordon som är i rörelse på dem. En övergång till alternativa tekniker, exempelvis ERS, är nödvändig för att uppnå hållbarhetsmålen för vägtransporter. Flera studier har betonat att nya affärsmodeller är nödvändiga för att kommersialisera sådan teknik. Däremot kräver ERS socio-teknisk förändring, t.ex. investeringar i alternativ infrastruktur, vilket få har behandlat i tidigare studier. Denna avhandling fördjupar och undersöker därför förhållandet mellan affärsmodeller och socio-teknisk förändring.

Med en explorativ ansats har två fallstudier genomförts där utvecklingen av ERS studerats; en longitudinell fallstudie i Sverige och en fördjupad fallstudie i Los Angeles, USA. Resultaten visar att förhållandet mellan affärsmodeller och socio-teknisk förändring skiljer sig beroende på projekttypen som analyserades. För det förstavar utvecklingen av nya affärsmodeller inte en del av pilotprojekten då fokus var på radikal teknikutveckling. För det andrautvecklades affärsmodeller i demonstrations-projekt, som involverade lärande från användarinteraktioner. För det tredje, affärsmodeller utvärderades och förpassades i ett utbyggnadsprojekt med syfte att förändra det befintliga socio-tekniska systemet.

Givet dessa resultat, argumenterar avhandlingen för att affärsmodellskonceptet kan användas som ett perspektiv för att förstå de utvecklingsprocesser som äger rum under de tidiga faserna av ett systemskifte. Avhandlingen visar också att utmaningarna med att kommersialisera och implementera systemiska innovationer, såsom ERS, är mer komplexa än det som hittills framkommit i affärsmodells- och systemskifteslitteraturen.

Vidare diskuterar avhandlingen huruvida ERS kommer att bli framgångsrikt eller inte. Resultaten nyanserar synen på utvecklingsprocesser av en nischinnovation innan den har blivit kommersiell och förbättrar förståelsen för vad som hindrar och möjliggör hållbara systemskiften.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH Royal Institute of Technology, 2018. p. 115
Series
TRITA-ITM-AVL ; 2018:8
Keywords
Electric road systems (ERS), business models, socio-technical change; sustainable transition, strategic niche management
National Category
Business Administration
Research subject
Industrial Economics and Management
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-225377 (URN)978-91-7729-738-3 (ISBN)
Public defence
2018-04-27, F3, Lindstedtsvägen 26, Stockholm, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Funder
Swedish Energy Agency, 37388-1
Available from: 2018-04-04 Created: 2018-04-03 Last updated: 2018-04-04Bibliographically approved

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