Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Papers in Innovation Studies,
Lund University, CIRCLE - Centre for Innovation Research

No 2020/10: Toward a multi-scalar perspective of transition trajectories

Johan Miörner () and Christian Binz ()
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Johan Miörner: Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag), Postal: Switzerland
Christian Binz: Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag), Postal: Switzerland

Abstract: This paper aims at analyzing transition trajectories from a multi-scalar perspective. It combines an institutional perspective of transitions with conceptions of scale from human geography and derives a framework which explicates how (de-)institutionalization and re-scaling mechanisms condition different types of transition trajectories. Our conceptual elaboration shows that the traditional ‘linear’ niche upscaling trajectory advocated in most transition studies can be complemented with alternative trajectories that build on analytically different sequences of institutionalization and re-scaling processes. This is illustrated through a case study of technology standardization in the sanitation sector, more specifically the development of the ISO 30500 standard for non-sewered sanitation systems, which was initiated by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Our case explicates a transition trajectory that departs from key assumptions of the linear upscaling model, with actors engaging in direct institutionalization at the global level in combination with re-scaling global rationalities by ex-post implementation in different contexts.

Keywords: geography of transitions; scale; socio-technical system; standardization; non-sewered sanitation

JEL-codes: F55; F60; L95; O33

25 pages, October 30, 2020

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