Niche Management Policies for Sustainability Transitions in Socio-Technical Systems

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The growing size and complexity of socio-technical systems such as energy and transportation, as well as rising concerns about the sustainability of the ways these systems function, create an increasing need for strategies and policies that would facilitate the penetration of sustainability innovations in these systems. Niche-based policies (e.g. strategic niche management (SNM)) that advocate nurturing innovations in protected niches are among such novel policy approaches. Despite being an intuitively appealing approach, its application is not straightforward since there are a set of key interrelated decisions regarding implementation such as size of the niche, the extent of support for an innovation, timing for support withdrawal, and pace of niche up-scaling. In the current state of the art, there is a remarkable absence of specific guiding principles for making such key decisions, and this limits the extent of utilization of niche management policies for facilitating sustainability transitions in socio-technical systems. This absence can mainly be attributed to the dynamic complexity of the innovation development and diffusion processes in the context of socio-technical systems. This research aims to analyze niche management strategies, and to develop a set of specific guidelines for designing and implementing successful strategies under different circumstances in order to facilitate the adoption of sustainability innovations. The analyses will be conducted using an ensemble of simulation models that capture the dynamic complexity of the innovation adoption process. A large set of
scenario experiments will be considered in order to make inferences about impacts of policy decisions on adoption dynamics. Building on these inferences, the research aims to contribute to the current understanding about when it is appropriate to use niche management strategies, and how they should be implemented and monitored.