Environmental technology diffusion in developing countries: the roles of different actors in the transition to a sustainable society

2013 EEEN Forum

Saskia Manshoven, Dirk Nelen

Innovative clean technologies play a critical role in the evolution to a more sustainable society. Both developed and developing countries face important challenges in the fields of energy supply, resource efficiency and environmental management. As developing countries are often most vulnerable to the impacts of environmental problems, the eco-effectivity of innovations that are pursuited in the face of poverty abatement and economic development, is especially relevant for them. Access to and accelerated implementation of technology improves the competitive advantage of developing countries and gives the opportunity for leapfrogging: adopting clean technology from the start, without having to go through the technological learning curve and the early environmental inefficiencies that were observed in the developed countries. A common misconception is that appropriate innovations diffuse automatically in a passive way. This is rarely the case as new technologies often suffer from system inhibition and resistance to change. The processes of diffusion and up-scaling are complex and appear to be case-specific. Numerous actors are involved and their respective roles may change in the course of the diffusion process. This calls for dedicated innovation management. This study focuses on the the roles that different actors and background conditions play in the transfer of environmental technologies to developing countries. An integrated analytical framework is developed, based on transition theory and the analysis of technological innovation systems. The study is built around several eco-innovation case studies in developing countries, covering different technologies and diffusion stages. Key questions are how the transition concept can help to contextualize the role of different actors of a technological innovation system in order to accelerate sustainable technological changes in developing countries, how that process can be accelerated and how the roles of different actors can be optimized to eliminate barriers and seize opportunities.


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