Bernhard Truffer's research while affiliated with Utrecht University and other places

Publications (151)

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Increasing pressures resulting from global environmental and societal changes urge cities to adapt their infrastructures. Strategic planning in local governments and utilities has to anticipate these challenges and translate them into innovation and investment strategies. In this setting, a multitude of actors, their interests, and value orientatio...
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There have been increasing calls in transition research for a global view of sustainability challenges. We argue that this focus should be expanded from a concentration on the Earth's surface and stratosphere to include outer space. The substantial growth of the space sector over the past decade has seen huge increases in the number of rocket launc...
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The academic literature largely acknowledges participation as a key condition for the successful upgrading of informal settlements. However, how individual participative actions of different actor groups and reactions of dwellers combine to influence project outcomes of upgrading processes has not been studied. This article posits that different co...
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Latecomer countries are increasingly confronted with the simultaneous challenge of achieving industry competitiveness and sustainability transitions. We revisit the long-standing debate on how latecomers may break free from the trajectories of the developed countries and leapfrog into more sustainable directions. Connecting insights from the fields...
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Innovation studies is increasingly acknowledging the multi-scalar nature of the systemic contexts, in which innovations are being developed and deployed. This paper builds on and further develops a recently proposed framework for studying global innovation systems (GIS). It aims at explaining the emergence of a GIS by outlining the specific local r...
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Most experts agree that automated vehicles (AV) will be commercialized sooner or later and that this will lead to far-reaching changes in the mobility system. However, it is still open whether these developments will lead to more sustainable transport systems. AVs may render private car ownership more attractive and therefore intensify car-oriented...
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The technological innovation systems (TIS) framework is one of the dominant perspectives in transitions studies to analyze success conditions and system failures of newly emerging technologies and industries. So far, TIS studies mostly adopted a rather harmonious view on the values of actors and by this were unable to address competition, conflicts...
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The journal Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions (EIST) recently celebrated its tenth anniversary. Its development represents a great success, contributing substantially to the consolidation and maturation of the research field of sustainability transitions. However, being content with past successes will not be sufficient for tackling...
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Classic accounts of transitions research have predominantly built on reconstructions of historical transition processes and in-depth case studies to identify and conceptualize socio-technical change. While such approaches have substantively improved our understanding of transitions, they often suffer from methodological nationalism and a lack of ge...
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Renewable energy sectors are becoming increasingly globalized with lead firms appropriating value on a global scale: This creates challenges for nations seeking to anchor some of the value locally through indigenous industrial development. Since lead firms select their suppliers for a given deployment project, national governments can set incentive...
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This editorial introduces a special issue with 27 short viewpoints about future research on transition studies, to commemorate the 10th anniversary of this journal.
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This paper investigates how actors across spatial levels shape the directions of transition. We examine two Chinese provinces, Inner Mongolia and Jiangsu, with contrasting directionalities of solar photovoltaic (PV) development. The former developed PV as part of the large-scale centralized power system, and the latter focused on PV development as...
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How does the spatial context shape early innovation trajectories and how will this influence the directionality of transitions? We elaborate these questions for the case of transitions in personal mobility, focusing on emerging trajectories of electric vehicles and autonomous driving. We analyze how the dynamics depend on whether innovation and tra...
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Research in economic geography has recently been challenged to adopt more institutional and multiscalar perspectives on industrial path development. This article contributes to this debate by integrating insights from (evolutionary) economic geography as well as transition and innovation studies into a conceptual framework of how path creation in e...
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In 2015, the United Nations General assembly adopted a set of 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs), including goals to further reduce poverty, hunger and inequality and to improve education, health, cities, economic wellbeing, environmental conditions and access to water and energy. Science, technology and innovation (STI) will play critical rol...
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The sanitation target of the millennium development goals (MDGs) was not reached and progress toward the sustainable development goal on water and sanitation (SDG6) is very slow. The lack of sanitation is especially persistent in cities in the Global South, as the world is rapidly urbanizing. This problem demands long-term fundamental transformatio...
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Community involvement is recognized as a core condition for success in informal settlements upgrading. However, the wider ramifications of this requirement are not well understood. Mostly, community involvement has been equated with a narrow interpretation of participation, largely focusing on the elicitation of dwellers’ preferences at the plannin...
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Recent developments in high- and middle-income countries have exhibited a shift from conventional urban water systems to alternative solutions that are more diverse in source separation, decentralization, and modularization. These solutions include non-grid, small-grid, and hybrid systems to address such pressing global challenges as climate change...
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The transformation of urban basic service sectors towards more sustainability is one of the ‘grand challenges’ for public policy, globally. A particular urgent problem is the provision of sanitation in cities in low-income countries. The globally dominant centralised sewerage approach has proven incapable to reach many of the urban poor. Recently,...
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A persistent conundrum for practitioners and researchers in the development context is that, often, newly provided and improved basic services are not maintained by users despite seemingly superior functionality and user convenience. We argue that one major reason for this is an insufficient understanding of the context in which users have to manag...
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Technological innovation increasingly depends on multiscalar actor networks and institutions. However, the developers of many conceptual frameworks explaining innovation success have paid only limited attention to this new reality, due to their focus on regions and countries as agents that shape innovation governance and as containers that provide...
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This viewpoint takes stock with the 'geography of sustainability transitions' (GOST) as it is presented in the transitions research agenda. GOST has been a relatively recent addition to transition theorizing, addressing the need for greater sensitivity and attention to the scales, spatialities, and context-specific factors that shape transitions. I...
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In this book chapter we advance the argument that regulatory policies can have a far-reaching impact on the organizational capabilities and ultimately on the performance of public utilities. Once capabilities are lost, it may be hard to regain them in the short term. Our insights are based on a qualitative-comparative analysis of capability losing...
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The provision of basic services suffers from a multitude of sustainability challenges in many cities of low-income countries. Sanitation provision faces particular challenges in the form of environmental contamination, high costs, and large inequalities among urban residents. In recent years an increasing number of innovations in on-site systems ha...
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Users are increasingly acknowledged as important actors fostering those fundamental socio-technical innovations needed to achieve a sustainable society. In the literature, users have so far been portrayed mostly to play a role in early phases of technology formation. However, more recently users have become important players in the upscaling of var...
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Transitioning economic sectors towards more sustainable futures is a major global challenge, in particular for non-OECD countries. Policymakers in these countries are confronted with a double challenge: how to implement cleaner technologies and infrastructures while at the same time promoting rapid industrial development. In catch-up studies, this...
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The provision of basic services is falling short in informal settlements of cities in the Global South. In particular, public utilities have had difficulties expanding their services to the urban poor. Why is this the case despite utilities having improved their capabilities substantially over the last years? This paper investigates how innovation...
Chapter
Consumers who are responsive to green electricity usually share concerns about the environmental impacts of hydropower production. Therefore, marketing of green hydropower will only be possible if its negative environmental impacts are minimized. Green electricity markets have been developed in recent years in several European countries including S...
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Addressing global climate change calls for rapid, large-scale deployment of renewable energy technologies (RETs). Such an accelerated diffusion constitutes a new phenomenon, which challenges existing analytical approaches. The implied fundamental reconfiguration of energy systems will inevitably involve adjoining shifts in the structure of energy m...
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Today's rapid global urbanization highlights the need for long-term transformations of basic service sectors in developing cities in order to improve the livelihoods of the urban poor. Sustainability transitions frameworks have proven fruitful for addressing these sort of challenges. However, they have been at pains so far in accounting for the het...
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Urban water management represents a core economic sector exposed to global water-related challenges. Recently, small modular system configurations have been identified to enable a potential sustainability transi- tion in this lasting and rather conservative sector. The identification of current market potentials of decentralised wastewater treatmen...
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This paper proposes a framework for the analysis of technological innovation processes in transnational contexts. By drawing on existing innovation system concepts and recent elaborations on the globalization of innovation, we develop a multi-scalar conceptualization of innovation systems. Two key mechanisms are introduced and elaborated: the gener...
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Sustainability transitions of sectors like energy, transport or water have become explicit goals of national policy programs in several parts of the world. The governance of associated innovation and transformation processes requires an integrated assessment on how new and seemingly superior technologies will interact with manifold societal, econom...
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Towards a theory of regional diversification: combining insights from Evolutionary Economic Geography and Transition Studies. Regional Studies. This paper develops a theoretical framework of regional diversification by combining insights from Evolutionary Economic Geography and Transition Studies. It argues that a theory of regional diversification...
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The concept of innovation systems has been a guiding paradigm of innovation research and strongly influenced research and innovation policy since the early 1990s. In spite of this success, criticisms have been raised in recent years about whether it is still a suitable framework for addressing the innovation-related challenges of the future. In the...
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To determine the optimal connection rate (CR) for regional waste water treatment is a challenge that has recently gained the attention of academia and professional circles throughout the world. We contribute to this debate by proposing a framework for a total cost assessment of sanitation infrastructures in a given region for the whole range of pos...
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Decentralised wastewater treatment is increasingly gaining interest as a means of responding to sustainability challenges. Cost comparisons are a crucial element of any sustainability assessment. While the cost characteristics of centralised waste water management systems (WMS) have been studied extensively, the economics of decentralised WMS are l...
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In many regions of the world, urban water systems will need to transition into fundamentally different forms to address current stressors and meet impending challenges-faster innovation will need to be part of these transitions. To assess the innovation deficit in urban water organizations and to identify means for supporting innovation, we surveye...
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The top priorities for urban water sustainability include the provision of safe drinking water, wastewater handling for public health, and protection against flooding. However, rapidly aging infrastructure, population growth, and increasing urbanization call into question current urban water management strategies, especially in the fast-growing urb...
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Where and how new industrial paths emerge are much debated questions in economic geography, especially in light of the recent evolutionary turn. This article contributes to the ongoing debate on path creation with a new analytical framework that specifies the formation of generic resources in embryonic industries. It suggests that path creation pro...
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Technological innovation that is incongruous with established social rules and practices is often confrontedwith strong skepticism and a lack of societal legitimacy. Yet, how the early actors in a new technological field create legitimacy for new products is not well researched. This paper addresses this gap by proposing an analytical framework for...
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Literature on socio-technical transitions has primarily emphasized the co-determination of institutions and technologies. In this paper, we want to focus on how actors play a mediating role between these two pillars of a socio-technical system. By introducing the theoretical concept of institutional work, we contribute to the conceptualization and...
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Legitimacy is central for both novel and established technologies to mobilize the resources necessary for growth and survival. A loss of legitimacy, in turn, can have detrimental effects for an industry. In this paper, we study the rise and fall of technology legitimacy of agricultural biogas in Germany over a period of more than 20 years (1990–201...
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The Network for Transdisciplinary Research (td-net) of the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences seeks to foster transdisciplinary research and showcase new approaches addressing topics of societal relevance and impact. The Jury honours the awardees and encourages them to go on contributing to the maturation of their fields.
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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....
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The strong reliance of most utility services on centralised network infrastructures is becoming increasingly challenged by new technological advances in decentralised alternatives. However, not enough effort has been made to develop planning tools designed to address the implications of these new opportunities and to determine the optimal degree of...
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Water resource managers often tout the potential of potable water reuse to provide a reliable, local source of drinking water in water-scarce regions. Despite data documenting the ability of advanced treatment technologies to treat municipal wastewater effluent to meet existing drinking water quality standards, many utilities face skepticism from t...
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During the past decades, a variety of approaches have emerged to understand and explain transformation processes at the science-society interface. Under different labels, these concepts have propagated a shift from academic, investigator-initiated, discipline-based research to more context-driven, problem-focused, and multidisciplinary research. Th...
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Transdisciplinary research plays an increasing role in topics of societal relevance and impact. The td-net of the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences awards innovative transdisciplinary research every other year. The last td-award was given in 2013. This special focus of GAIA features the six prize-winning projects, presenting short summaries of t...
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Studies on technological innovation systems (TISs) often set spatial boundaries at the national level and treat supranational levels as a geographically undifferentiated and freely accessible global technological opportunity set. This article criticizes this conceptualization and proposes instead to analyze relevant actors, networks and processes i...
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This paper analyzes the ability of water utilities to contribute to sustainability transition processes. More specifically, we compare the capacity of utilities, embedded in purely public, mixed and largely private governance modes, to innovate. We employ dynamic capabilities as core indicators for innovativeness and therefore as major enabling fac...
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Literature on academic spin-offs gives evidence of different modes of interaction between spin-offs and their parent and their relative role in different modes of knowledge production. In this article, we examine the development of interactions between academic spin-offs and their parent organizations over a mid- to long-term period (4–15 years), d...
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South Africa experienced severe power outages between 2005 and 2008. The power crisis is commonly explained by inadequate generation capacity, badly maintained power plants and insufficient coal supply. In this paper, we go a step further and examine the underlying reasons responsible for deficiencies in power supply at the level of the utility fir...
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Institutions play a crucial role for the development and diffusion of novel technologies. Many studies have analyzed the role of formal institutions such as support policies or specific R&D programs, while informal institutions have received less attention. With this paper, we contribute to the institutional analysis of emerging technological field...
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Urban water scarcity has been an issue for a long time in China while water pollution has attracted more and more attention over the last two decades. Recently, on-site wastewater treatment (OST) has been proposed as a meaningful alternative to deal with both water pollution and water scarcity in cities in a more sustainable way. However, the diffu...
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Interaction between institutional change and technological change poses important constraints on transitions of urban water systems to a state that can meet future needs. Research on urban water and other technology-dependent systems provides insights that are valuable to technology researchers interested in assuring that their efforts will have an...
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South Africa experienced severe power outages between 2005 and 2008. The power crisis is commonly explained by inadequate generation capacity, badly maintained power plants and insufficient coal supply. In this paper, we go a step further and examine the underlying reasons responsible for deficiencies in power supply at the level of the utility fir...
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Infrastructure services such as electricity, water supply, sanitation and transportation are crucially important in our economies. Despite this importance, utility firms have found little attention in management research. This is surprising because the lack of adequate organizational structures, skills and specialized managerial know-how is an emer...
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In recent years, socio-technical transitions literature has gained importance in addressing long-term, transformative change in various industries. In order to account for the inertia and path-dependency experienced in these sectors, the concept of the socio-technical regime has been formulated. Socio-technical regimes denote the paradigmatic core...
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Purpose The purpose of this paper is to analyze how strategic renewal affects the reconfiguration of capabilities. In the context of organizational change in a large utility firm, we examine the evolution of the capability structure, and explain the emergence and persistence of capability gaps. Design/methodology/approach The paper uses an inducti...
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In the past decade, the literature on transitions towards sustainable socio-technical systems has made a considerable contribution in understanding the complex and multi-dimensional shifts considered necessary to adapt societies and economies to sustainable modes of production and consumption. However, transition analyses have often neglected where...
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Sustainability oriented innovation and technology studies have received increasing attention over the past 10-15 years. In particular, a new field dealing with "sustainability transitions" has gained ground and reached an output of 60-100 academic papers per year. In this article, we aim to identify the intellectual contours of this emerging field...
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This article investigates the interplay of expectation dynamics and innovation processes at the level of organizations and at the innovation system level. We examine how different kinds of organizations contributed and responded to a recent hype and disappointment cycle in the field of stationary fuel cells. Among others, we trace how innovation an...