Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Papers in Innovation Studies,
Lund University, CIRCLE - Center for Innovation, Research and Competences in the Learning Economy

No 2009/8: Local niche experimentation in energy transitions: a theoretical and empirical exploration of proximity advantages and disadvantages

Lars Coenen (), Rob Raven () and Geert Verbong ()
Additional contact information
Lars Coenen: CIRCLE, Lund University, Postal: PO Box 117, Sölvegatan 16, SE-22100 Lund, Sweden
Rob Raven: Department of Industrial Engineering and Innovation Sciences. Eindhoven University of Technology, Postal: PO Box 513, 5600 MB Eindhoven, The Netherlands
Geert Verbong: Department of Industrial Engineering and Innovation Sciences. Eindhoven University of Technology, Postal: PO Box 513, 5600 MB Eindhoven, The Netherlands

Abstract: This paper discusses how the approach of Strategic Niche Management (SNM) relates to proximity advantages in innovation processes as identified in the geography of innovation literature. The latter claims that the locations where innovation emerge and thrive are not coincidental, but that they follow certain patterns and explanatory logics. Such specific attention for explaining locations is not explicitly present in SNM, although this literature makes claims about the importance of experimentation in local settings, and local and global dynamics. Hence a confrontation of both literatures is thought to be promising. The paper draws on a theoretical discussion and a case study about aquifer thermal energy storage to conclude (1) that there is sufficient evidence for proximity dimensions in niche development; (2) that taking proximity dimensions seriously in SNM helps to unpack processes of upscaling and aggregation; (3) that literature on proximity and innovation can benefit from a more agency-based and dynamic perspective on proximity advantages; and (4) that there is a bias in proximity literature towards advantages of proximity while neglecting potential disadvantages for innovation, aggregation and upscaling.

Keywords: Strategic Niche Management; geography of innovation; sustainability; experiments; energy storage; The Netherlands

JEL-codes: O30

15 pages, August 1, 2009

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