The transition literature (especially within economic geography, urban studies and political ecology) highlights that the proximity between actors plays a crucial role in determining the dynamics of sustainable transitions. Economic geographers distinguish between absolute (spatial) and relative (non-spatial) proximity. These play different roles in the transition process, though relative proximity has been scarcely investigated in empirical studies. To overcome this limitation, we investigated the relevance of spatial and non-spatial proximity in the evolution of a technological niche. We also explored the roles of different kinds of non-spatial proximity (i.e. cognitive, organizational, social, institutional), in niche evolution, in terms of network expansion. To this end, we analyzed the Italian biofuel niche, as it has already undergone different evolution phases. We found that the most relevant drivers of niche networking were social, cognitive and institutional proximity. Additionally, while social proximity was relevant throughout the entire life span of the niche, cognitive and institutional proximity gained significance only in the maturity phase, marking a transition point in the niche evolution. From these findings we derive that policy makers should (i) concentrate on social proximity to speed up niche evolution and (ii) increase cognitive and institutional proximity in the development phase in order to consolidate the niche in the maturity phase. This could occur through initiatives aimed at creating common experiences (e.g. business incubators, technological communities) and the intervention of national and/or supranational institutions to create network externality conditions by means of R&D subsidies.

The role of proximity in sustainability transitions: A technological niche evolution analysis

Lopolito A.;Falcone P. M.
;
Sica E.
2022-01-01

Abstract

The transition literature (especially within economic geography, urban studies and political ecology) highlights that the proximity between actors plays a crucial role in determining the dynamics of sustainable transitions. Economic geographers distinguish between absolute (spatial) and relative (non-spatial) proximity. These play different roles in the transition process, though relative proximity has been scarcely investigated in empirical studies. To overcome this limitation, we investigated the relevance of spatial and non-spatial proximity in the evolution of a technological niche. We also explored the roles of different kinds of non-spatial proximity (i.e. cognitive, organizational, social, institutional), in niche evolution, in terms of network expansion. To this end, we analyzed the Italian biofuel niche, as it has already undergone different evolution phases. We found that the most relevant drivers of niche networking were social, cognitive and institutional proximity. Additionally, while social proximity was relevant throughout the entire life span of the niche, cognitive and institutional proximity gained significance only in the maturity phase, marking a transition point in the niche evolution. From these findings we derive that policy makers should (i) concentrate on social proximity to speed up niche evolution and (ii) increase cognitive and institutional proximity in the development phase in order to consolidate the niche in the maturity phase. This could occur through initiatives aimed at creating common experiences (e.g. business incubators, technological communities) and the intervention of national and/or supranational institutions to create network externality conditions by means of R&D subsidies.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11369/415336
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