Frank W. Geels

Frank W. Geels
The University of Manchester · Manchester Institute of Innovation Research

Prof. dr. ir.

About

147
Publications
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36,697
Citations

Publications

Publications (147)
Article
To situate its low-carbon transition process in longer-term real-world business contexts, this article makes a longitudinal analysis of the UK petrochemical industry, focusing on changing economic and socio-political environments and company strategies in the last 50 years. Using the Triple Embeddedness Framework, the paper identifies two parallel...
Article
In response to criticisms about the status of causal explanation in socio-technical transitions research, this article elaborates the epistemological underpinnings of this emerging research field, mobilising insights from the wider social sciences where foundational debates have started to transform the understanding of causality and explanation. T...
Book
Full-text available
This book is intended for researchers, policymakers, and practitioners interested in the dynamics and governance of low-carbon transitions. Drawing on the Multi-Level Perspective, it develops a whole system reconfiguration approach that explains how the incorporation of multiple innovations can cumulatively reconfigure existing systems. The book fo...
Article
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In this Perspective, we suggest that research on just transitions and energy justice needs to better attend to the increasingly important trade-offs arising from issues related to speed and acceleration of low-carbon transitions. We identify and elaborate two important tensions that policymakers face when they want to simultaneously achieve both ju...
Article
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This article makes two contributions to the COVID-related green recovery literature, which is dominated by optimistic and speculative opportunity narratives. Mobilising insights from political science theories, our conceptual contribution is to suggest that green recovery analyses should focus not only on the opportunities (‘permissive conditions’)...
Preprint
Full-text available
This viewpoint identifies three interrelated transition imperatives to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 – increasing the speed, scope and level of decarbonization. First, the urgency of climate action places temporality and radically accelerated sociotechnical change at the heart of the net-zero 2050 challenge. Second, the net-zero challenge impl...
Article
This viewpoint article draws attention to the importance of mainstream actor reorientation in the diffusion phase of sustainability transitions. It proposes an integrative typology of seminal social science theories, which distinguishes different depths of reorientation and associated processes.
Article
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This paper addresses the implementation of technology-forcing policies in open-ended diffusion processes that involve companies and regulators as well as consumers and civil society actors. Mobilising insights from the societal embedding of technology framework and policy steering theories, we investigate two implementation dilemmas that relate to...
Preprint
This session will discuss risks and opportunities for firms, organisations, communities and other actors in the transition to net-zero.
Article
Full-text available
Smart electricity meters are a central feature of any future smart grid, and therefore represent a rapid and significant household energy transition, growing by our calculations from less than 23.5 million smart meters in 2010 to an estimated 729.1 million in 2019, a decadal growth rate of 3013%. What are the varying economic, governance, and energ...
Article
This is a reply to van den Bergh and Botzen who argue that a low-carbon transition is improbable without carbon pricing. https://www.pnas.org/content/117/38/23219 as a response to https://www.pnas.org/content/117/16/8664
Article
Full-text available
The field of science and technology studies (STS) has introduced and developed a “sociotechnical” perspective that has been taken up by many disciplines and areas of inquiry. The aims and objectives of this study are threefold: to interrogate which sociotechnical concepts or tools from STS are useful at better understanding energy-related social sc...
Article
Full-text available
Sustainability transitions in energy, transport or agro-food systems are needed to tackle grand sustainability challenges. Due to the urgency of these challenges, transitions need to accelerate and widen in scope, which, in some cases, is already happening. This shift in gear, however, comes with a series of 'acceleration challenges', including who...
Article
Carbon pricing is often presented as the primary policy approach to address climate change. We challenge this position and offer “sustainability transition policy” (STP) as an alternative. Carbon pricing has weaknesses with regard to five central dimensions: 1) problem framing and solution orientation, 2) policy priorities, 3) innovation approach,...
Article
In this Policy brief, we provide an overview of a recently published report by the European Environment Agency: 'Sustainability transitions: policy and practice', which we co-authored. We discuss the report's context and rationale, namely as part of a knowledge brokering process initiated at the EEA since 2015 and intended to explore the practical...
Article
The Multi-Level Perspective (MLP) is a prominent framework to understand socio-technical transitions, but its micro-foundations have remained under-developed. The paper's first aim is therefore to develop the MLP's theoretical micro-foundations, which are rooted in Social Construction of Technology, evolutionary economics and neoinstitutional theor...
Article
Despite rising greenhouse gas emissions, the rapid diffusion of solar-PV, wind turbines, and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) is beginning to change the climate change discourse from one that focuses on collective action problems, free-riding concerns, and zero-sum games to one that focuses on economic opportunities, innovation races, and win-win solut...
Book
Full-text available
‘Sustainability transitions: policy and practice’ identifies policy options for responding to systemic environmental and climate problems in Europe and globally. Drawing on the the growing body of international research into sustainability transitions, as well as interactions with policymakers and EU institutions, the report sets out 10 sets of mes...
Article
This article discusses the socio-technical transition literature, particularly the Multi-Level Perspective, which investigates the fundamental changes in (energy, transport, housing, agro-food) systems that are needed to address persistent sustainability problems. The article positions the MLP within the wider academic debate on sustainability tran...
Article
A founding assumption and aim of the sociotechnical approach to sustainability transitions was the need to develop frameworks to understand major systemic changes that would be required across the entire chain of production, distribution and consumption. However, most studies have so far focused on partial aspects of the entire chain, often a singl...
Article
Research on sustainability transitions has expanded rapidly in the last ten years, diversified in terms of topics and geographical applications, and deepened with respect to theories and methods. This article provides an extensive review and an updated research agenda for the field, classified into nine main themes: understanding transitions; power...
Article
This paper presents an introduction to and overview of the papers in this Special Issue of Technological Forecasting & Social Change on ‘Transition Pathways’ is presented. Each of these papers are an output of the PATHWAYS project (EC FP7-funded, 2013–2017) which looked into ways to integrate alternative approaches for analysing sustainability tran...
Article
Full-text available
Policy-oriented transition frameworks such as Strategic Niche Management, Transition Management, and Technological Innovation Systems offer limited analytical traction on deliberately accelerated socio-technical transitions. Using the Multi-Level Perspective as guiding framework, we therefore inductively explore the political acceleration of socio-...
Article
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This paper concerns the emergence and diffusion of radical innovations in the context of sustainability transitions. We confront the typical understanding in the Strategic Niche Management framework with an in-depth longitudinal case study of French modern tramways (1971–2016), which represents a particular technology class: local infrastructure sy...
Article
Low-carbon transitions in whole systems (in energy, mobility, agro-food) are an important, yet understudied topic in socio-technical transition research. To address this topic, the paper builds on the Multi-Level Perspective, but stretches it to address developments in multiple regimes and multiple niche-innovations. This ‘zooming out’ strategy cha...
Article
Technological diffusion can be understood as a broader process of co-construction of technology and its environment. This article conceptualizes this co-construction as a process of societal embedding, in which new technologies find their place in wider societal domains, which include immediate user contexts, cultural meanings, policies, and infras...
Article
This article investigates the conditions under which policymakers are likely to decisively accelerate socio-technical transitions. We develop a conceptual framework that combines insights from historical institutionalism and the Multi-Level Perspective to better understand the political dimension in transitions, focusing particularly on the mechani...
Article
Full-text available
An analysis of the transition from railways to highways as the dominant British transport system during the twentieth century shows that public storylines about competing niche and regime technologies can have a powerful influence on socio-technical transitions. These storylines are developed by supporters and opponents of the competing technologie...
Article
This paper engages with the debate on niche-regime interactions in sustainability transitions, using a study of plant-based milk and its struggles against the entrenched liquid dairy-milk regime, which has various sustainability problems. Plant-based milk is under-studied, so our empirical contribution consists of an exploration of its diffusion in...
Article
Meeting the climate change targets in the Paris Agreement implies a substantial and rapid acceleration of low-carbon transitions. Combining insights from political science, policy analysis and socio-technical transition studies, this paper addresses the politics of deliberate acceleration by taking stock of emerging examples, mobilizing relevant th...
Article
Full-text available
Improvements in energy efficiency and reductions in energy demand are expected to contribute more than half of the reduction in global carbon emissions over the next few decades. These unprecedented reductions require transformations in the systems that provide energy services. However, the dominant analytical perspectives, grounded in neoclassical...
Article
In this study, we present and apply an interdisciplinary approach that systematically draws qualitative insights from socio-technical transition studies to develop new quantitative scenarios for integrated assessment modelling. We identify the transition narrative as an analytical bridge between socio-technical transition studies and integrated ass...
Article
Research on climate change mitigation tends to focus on supply-side technology solutions. A better understanding of demand-side solutions is missing. We propose a transdisciplinary approach to identify demand-side climate solutions, investigate their mitigation potential, detail policy measures and assess their implications for well-being.
Article
Social acceptance and political feasibility are important issues in low-carbon transitions. Since computer models struggle to address these issues, the paper advances socio-technical scenarios as a novel methodological tool. Contributing to recent dialogue approaches, we develop an eight-step methodological procedure that produces socio-technical s...
Article
Much research and policy advice for addressing climate change has focused on developing model-based scenarios to identify pathways towards achieving decarbonisation targets. The paper's first aim is to complement such model-based analysis with insights from socio-technical transition analysis to develop socio-technical storylines that show how low-...
Book
Full-text available
'Perspectives on transitions to sustainability' presents a variety of analytical perspectives on systemic change, exploring what insights they collectively offer for policy, governance and knowledge creation. The report includes five academic papers drafted by internationally recognised experts in the field of sustainability transitions. For each o...
Article
Research on climate change mitigation tends to focus on supply-side technology solutions. A better understanding of demand-side solutions is missing. We propose a transdisciplinary approach to identify demand-side climate solutions, investigate their mitigation potential, detail policy measures, and assess their implications for well-being.
Article
Effective mitigation of climate change will require far-reaching transformations of electricity, heat, agricultural, transport, and other systems. The energy studies and modeling research that so often dominate academic and policy debates provide valuable insights into these transitions, but remain constrained by their focus on rational decision-ma...
Article
Fig. 1. Development of the Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortisation (EBITDA) of the Big-4 utilities, in million euros.
Article
Full-text available
Cities, and the networked infrastructures that sustain urban life, are seen as crucial sites for creating more sustainable futures. Yet, although there are many plans, the realisation of sustainable urban infrastructures on the ground is uneven. To develop better ways of understanding why this is the case, the paper makes a conceptual contribution...
Article
The emergence of a dedicated modelling community within the transitions field is to be welcomed, and the authors of a recent paper in EIST (Holtz et al., 2015) make many valuable points. We build on their position paper in two ways. First, we reflect on some of the ways in which modelling in other areas of ‘sustainability science’ has sometimes fal...
Article
Low-carbon transitions are long-term multi-faceted processes. Although integrated assessment models have many strengths for analysing such transitions, their mathematical representation requires a simplification of the causes, dynamics and scope of such societal transformations. We suggest that integrated assessment model-based analysis should be c...
Article
This paper aims to make two contributions to the sustainability transitions literature, in particular the Geels and Schot (2007. Res. Policy 36(3), 399) transition pathways typology. First, it reformulates and differentiates the typology through the lens of endogenous enactment, identifying the main patterns for actors, formal institutions, and tec...
Conference Paper
Addressing persistent environmental problems (climate change, bio-diversity and resource scarcity) requires shifts in our existing transport, energy, buildings, and agro-food systems. These system innovations will be analyses as socio-technical transitions, because they entail not only new technologies, but also changes in policy, consumer practice...
Conference Paper
Addressing persistent environmental problems (climate change, bio-diversity and resource scarcity) requires shifts in our existing transport, energy, buildings, and agro-food systems. These system innovations will be analyses as socio-technical transitions, because they entail not only new technologies, but also changes in policy, consumer practice...
Conference Paper
Article
The paper sets out a proposal for bridging and linking three approaches to the analysis of transitions to sustainable and low-carbon societies: quantitative systems modelling; socio-technical transition analysis; and initiative-based learning. We argue that each of these approaches presents a partial and incomplete picture, which has implications f...
Article
Full-text available
This conceptual review article provides a critical appraisal of Sustainable Consumption and Production research, which is currently framed by two generic positions. First, the ‘reformist’ position, which focuses on firms pursuing green eco-innovations and consumers buying eco-efficient products, represents the political and academic orthodoxy. Seco...
Article
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This paper uses the Dialectic Issue LifeCycle-model (DILC-model) to analyze the co-evolution of the climate change problem and strategic responses from the American car industry. The longitudinal and multi-dimensional analysis investigates the dynamics of the climate change problem in terms of socio-political mobilization by social movements, scien...
Article
While most studies of low-carbon transitions focus on green niche-innovations, this paper shifts attention to the resistance by incumbent regime actors to fundamental change. Drawing on insights from political economy, the paper introduces politics and power into the multi-level perspective. Instrumental, discursive, material and institutional form...
Article
Full-text available
Addressing societal problems requires the reorientation of firms-in-industries, including changes in technology, belief systems, and mission. The paper aims to make two contributions to the Dialectic Issue LifeCycle (DILC) model, which captures the dynamics of socio-political mobilization around societal problems and industry responses. First, the...
Article
The paper distinguishes four views on the impact of the financial–economic crisis on sustainability transitions (operationalized as diffusion of green niche-innovations). The first three views highlight the possibility of positive impacts of the financial–economic crisis on sustainability transitions and joint solutions: (a) a comprehensive transfo...
Article
This paper investigates a neglected aspect of the transitions literature: the destabilisation of existing regimes and industries. It presents an analytical perspective that integrates four existing views on destabilisation and conceptualizes the process as a multi-dimensional and enacted phenomenon involving technical, economic, political, and cult...
Article
The multi-level perspective (MLP) has emerged as a fruitful middle-range framework for analysing socio-technical transitions to sustainability. The MLP also received constructive criticisms. This paper summarises seven criticisms, formulates responses to them, and translates these into suggestions for future research. The criticisms relate to: (1)...
Article
Previous studies of system innovations mainly focused on historical cases that were driven by commercial motivations of pioneers and entrepreneurs. This article investigates a system innovation in the making that is driven by normative concerns, such as sustainability or animal welfare, initially formulated by outsiders like special-interest groups...
Article
Although transitions are usually perceived as technological substitution processes, the article shows that stepwise reconfiguration is more likely for supplier-dominated sectors. In this transition pattern, novelties are initially adopted as ‘modular innovation’ into existing systems and subsequently reconfigure the basic architecture through new c...
Article
This paper analyses sustainability transitions in the electricity system, using recent theories on socio-technical pathways. The paper describes three possible transition pathways and indicates the implications for (grid) infrastructures. The ‘transformation pathway’ is characterised by a further hybridization of the infrastructure; in the ‘reconfi...
Article
Using recent criticisms and suggestions regarding the multi-level perspective as stepping stones, the article aims to enhance the reflexivity in transition debates regarding social theories. To that end, the article discusses seven social science ontologies (rational choice, evolution theory, structuralism, interpretivism, functionalism, conflict a...
Article
This article addresses the topic of radical innovation, making two additions to the strategic niche management (SNM) approach, which conceptualises how innovations cross the ‘valley of death’. First, it articulates the theoretical foundations of SNM, theorizing the connections between social constructivist and evolutionary theories of technical cha...
Article
Previous studies of system innovations mainly focused on historical cases that were driven by commercial motivations of pioneers and entrepreneurs. This article investigates a system innovation in the making that is driven by normative concerns, such as sustainability or animal welfare, initially formulated by outsiders like special-interest groups...
Article
This article adds a new case study to the expanding literature on socio-technical transitions: the shift from mixed farming to intensive pig husbandry in the Netherlands. With regard to this transition, the article addresses a new direction, namely the role of foundational ontologies in explanation. Five ontologies are distinguished, which are base...