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Technological innovation systems in contexts: Conceptualizing contextual structures and interaction dynamics

Partners' Institution
Södertörn University
Bergek, A., Hekkert, M., Jacobsson, S., Markard, J., Sandén, B., Truffer, B., 2015. Technological innovation systems in contexts: Conceptualizing contextual structures and interaction dynamics. Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions 16, 51–64.
Thematic Area
Development studies, Sustainable Development
This paper addresses interactions between technological innovation systems (TIS) and wider “context structures”. While TIS studies have always considered various kinds of contextual influences, we suggest that the TIS framework can be further strengthened by a more elaborated conceptualization of TIS context structures and TIS–context interactions. For that purpose, we identify and discuss four especially important types of context structures: technological, sectorial, geographical and political. For each of these, we provide examples of different ways in which context structures can interact with a focal TIS and how our understanding of TIS dynamics is enhanced by considering them explicitly. Lessons for analysts are given and a research agenda is outlined.
Relevance for Complex Systems Knowledge
Technological Innovation Systems came about as a reaction to other more geographically based innovation systems, such as National regional systems, and also as a reaction to sectoral innovation system. The rationale for haviong another type of foci was primarily that researchers needed  an analytical approach that made it easier to understand the drivers and facilitators of new technologies, primarily in the field of renewable energy.These technologies were seen as being generic and global rather than linked to specific geographical or sectoral limitations.

The setting of boundaries for technogical innovation systems has been perceived as increasingly difficult as the technologies mature. It becomes evident that context matters to the way that innovations will take of and being implemented at scale. Hence there is a need to look at how the technological system links up to other systems.

The authors define two types of links. The first is external links, defined as links to systems that may influence the TIS, in a more indirect way and without any reciprocal effects. The other type is called structural couplings (a term picked up from Niklas Luhman?). Here there is a reciprocity in the linkages it can go both ways. It can also be competitive  ro enabling for the TIS.

 Further, the authors provide examples on how susch structural coupling play out when connecting to four different domains. First they consider the couplings between different TIS (solar power to wind power). Next they look at geographic couplings (TIS to NIS), and then to sectors (solar energy to the entire energy sector). Finally they look at the couplings between a TIS and the political system.
Point of Strength
The TIS is  a good way of focusing on the functions required for development of a technology and the interplay of the actors performing the functions. Connecting this to different context gives the approach further strengths. The article provides plentiful of examples that can be used in teaching and in various learning exercises.