In light of climate change and other environmental challenges, actors across the globe are currently contemplating how to bring about a socio-technical shift resulting in increased use of renewable energy technology. Scientists are researching new technologies, policymakers are crafting policy, industrialists are starting up new companies and investors are investing in these companies. Innovation, conceptualized as the Schumpeterian notion of creating ‘new combinations' is central in the process.
This thesis deals with innovation. More specifically it deals with innovation in one particular renewable energy technology: bioenergy. It does so through the study of bioenergy in Norway and Sweden. However, where most students of innovation deal with innovation as a result of systemic properties, this thesis is focused on practice, and the factors which feed into innovation practice from an actor-perspective. Inspired by various strands of STS theory, an underlying assumption of the thesis is that innovation is a continuous process which involves a range of actors. To be successful, bioenergy solutions do not only have to work according to technical specifications, they must become successfully integrated elements in Norwegian and Swedish collectives.
This leads to studies of the potential interplay between innovators, the technology and various elements in the Norwegian and Swedish society, in other words bioenergy innovation is co-studied with the collective(s) it seeks to become part of. Specifically, this thesis consists of four research papers. All papers are concerned with bioenergy, and can be related to discussions about how innovation occurs, how innovation endeavours are shaped and how we can understand the practice of innovation in a broader setting.
The first paper, ‘Organic Innovation' studies innovation practices in the Norwegian bioenergy industry and how this practice is shaped or formatted by new markets, resource availability, new regulations and customer relationships. The second paper ‘curb your enthusiasm' considers how bioenergy is given meaning to in Norwegian and Swedish newspapers, highlighting how this process of meaning attribution leads to a different image of what bioenergy ‘is' in the two countries and how this might affect processes of innovation and diffusion. The third paper, ‘Publics in the pipeline', considers the links between the Swedish and Norwegian ‘public' and the bioenergy industry from an industry perspective. How does the industry construct their publics and how do these constructed publics influence the action of the innovators? The final paper, ‘What we disagree about when we disagree about sustainability', considers scientific, political and industrial disagreements over the status of bioenergy and peat in a climate and sustainability perspective. How can decision makers make strategic decisions about technology development when competing knowledge claims exists about the same technology?
The four papers are accompanied by an introductory essay which synthesizes the results from these quite different papers, focusing specifically on how studies of this type can increase our understanding of processes of innovation and socialization of technology.