“The innovation and industry dynamics of technology phase-out in sustainability transitions: Insights from diversifying petroleum technology suppliers in Norway”

Another absolutely brilliant article, with serious conceptual chops. A thickening/broadening of TIS, forcing you to think more “within” a sector, seeing the different ways a mature/declining sector might go (or rather, actors within it might go – a real Theseus’ ship situation there…)

Andersen, A. and Gulbrandsen, M. 2020. The innovation and industry dynamics of technology phase-out in sustainability transitions: Insights from diversifying petroleum technology suppliers in Norway, Energy Research & Social Science 64 (2020) 101447, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.erss.2020.101447 

There’s so much here, in this excellent paper. I can’t quote the lot, but these seem particularly apposite to me.

This diagram is gonna go on the wall

There’s good stuff on TIS

TIS has been extensively applied for studying emergence of new energy technologies but has recently been extended to also account for technology decline and phase-out [50]. Technology decline is characterized by firm exit, breaking up networks of incumbents, decreasing technology performance, and institutional weakening (i.e. decreasing legitimacy) [18,51] (Andersen and Gulbrandsen, 2020: 3) 

during formation and growth, a TIS ‘imports’ actors, knowledge, and resources, and in decline ‘exports’ these back to context e.g. by repurposing of infrastructure or firms entering other sectors [50]. However, we know little about how this ‘export’ unfolds, including how actors exit a declining TIS and where they go next. (Andersen and Gulbrandsen, 2020: 3) 

And on sectors

Sectors are conceptualized as socio-technical systems that deliver a particular product or service. Sectors consist of actors (e.g. firms, users, and public actors), institutions (e.g. laws, norms and routines), and technologies (i.e. both material artefacts and underlying knowledge bases) [43]. A sector contains three generic subsystems including production, distribution and consumption that each involve different technologies [43–45]. The technologies applied in a sector are connected through a stable socio-technical regime comprised of a set of interlocking elements such as user practices, skills, regulation and cultural aspects [46] (Andersen and Gulbrandsen, 2020: 2) 

Each sector is inhabited by a population of firms with similar capabilities, and has a particular underlying ‘knowledge base’ and mode of innovation [56,57]. Each technology value chain thus involves several heterogeneous sectors whose alignment and complementarities influence the performance of the focal technology [58–60]. In addition to up- and downstream sectors, also ‘adjacent sectors’ play a role. These are other sectors of central importance for the evolution of a focal technology such as additional sectors in which the focal technology is applied (e.g. multipurpose technologies) or sectors that support the focal technology with resource inputs [37,38] (Andersen and Gulbrandsen, 2020: 3) 

The technology value chain perspective was recently extended from focusing on a particular technology to account for a transition in a focal sector involving multiple technology value chains [30,39]. The extension was articulated as a theoretical ‘overlay module’ to support the TIS framework in systematically mapping and exploring the role of intersectoral relationships.3  (Andersen and Gulbrandsen, 2020: 3) 

Upstream and downstream (and not in the MSA sense) matters

Upstream and downstream sectors are delineated in relation to a particular technology value chain. The focal sector is where the technology is applied, while upstream sectors are those that produce important components and subcomponents of the technology. Note that the focal, downstream sector (in a transition) is viewed as broader than upstream sectors. The main difference is that the former includes users of sector output (e.g. electricity or mobility services) while for the latter, users are based in other sectors. The purpose of this differentiation is to explicate inter-sectoral relationships (Andersen and Gulbrandsen, 2020: x) 

Core and peripheral firms in a sector worth figuring out-

In light of our value chain approach to technology, we also emphasize that the position of incumbent firms within a regime can influence the likelihood of reorientation. Peripheral or fringe firms are less locked-in and more receptive to transformation pressures than core incumbents. Peripheral firms are typically less powerful, smaller, and will have less financial losses from radical change as compared to core firms [40,41]. Whether core firms in a technology value chain are located up- or downstream is not obvious a priori but depends on the organization of specific value chains [93]. Such nuancing of the notion of an incumbent actor implies that one would expect to see a vast diversity of incumbents that diverge from the received understanding of them as large, market-dominating and politically influential [94]. (Andersen and Gulbrandsen, 2020: x) 

And seeing the big picture…

By using a technology value chain approach, one can see beyond incumbents in a focal sector and include upstream types of incumbents. It thereby provides a schematic way of identifying different types of incumbents in relation to a particular technology. Moreover, the importance of inter-sectoral interdependencies for technological change suggests that incumbency is not meaningfully reducible to a single-sector regime. Instead, the interdependencies across sectors implies that a broader view of incumbents is warranted. (Andersen and Gulbrandsen, 2020: x) 

Meanwhile, some key references (non-exhaustive)

18 Creative destruction or mere niche support? Innovation policy mixes for sustainability transitions – ScienceDirect 

[30] A.D. Andersen, et al., The role of inter-sectoral dynamics in sustainability transitions: a comment on the transitions research agenda, Environ. Innov. Soc. Trans. (2019) 

[39] A.D. Andersen, J. Markard, Multi-technology interaction in socio-technical transitions: how recent dynamics in HVDC technology can inform transition theories, Technol. Forecast. Soc. Change (2019). 

50 The life cycle of technological innovation systems – ScienceDirect 

51 Explaining regime destabilisation in the pulp and paper industry – ScienceDirect 

68  Incumbent energy companies navigating energy transitions: strategic action or bricolage? – ScienceDirect 

69  Navigators through the storm: A review of organization theories and the behavior of incumbent firms during transitions – ScienceDirect 

70  Transition pathways revisited: Established firms as multi-level actors in the heavy vehicle industry – ScienceDirect 

71 Policies, actors and sustainability transition pathways: A study of the EU’s energy policy mix – ScienceDirect 

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