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Co-operation in pilot projects
Barbara Christine van Mierlo, Wageningen Universiteit, Netherlands
Radical sustainable technologies could play a major role in the development towards sustainability. However, usually major bottlenecks have to be solved before a large-scale diffusion is possible. According to the approach of strategic niche management this means that the existing social-technological regime needs to change: the rules and infrastructure that support the existing technologies and which hinder the introduction of new technologies. One of the instruments to facilitate the diffusion of new technologies is to create ‘protected spaces’; protected market niches that can stimulate a change in the regime by learning and by the social embedding of the learning experiences. Demonstration projects and the like are often launched by firms and subsidised by states. The objective is in general to prepare the market introduction of new technologies. However, they are often realised and financed without much information being available on how partners in these projects co-operate and how the market launch could be prepared through this co-operation. Therefore the central theme of this paper is the co-operation of heterogeneous actors in pilot projects around a new sustainable technology. Four large-scale pilot projects with photovoltaics in the built environment will be compared. It will be shown how actors from two existing regimes (the energy sector and the building sector) and outsiders (outsider firms and professional engineers) formed temporary networks to realise the pilot projects and how they negotiated to get to a joint product. The network formations and negotiations were found to be crucial for the direct success of the pilot projects. The quality of the learning experiences, the follow-up of the projects and the conduction of structural internal adjustments depended largely on the ways the partners co-operated within the pilot projects. Some practical recommendations on how to facilitate these processes as a ‘systemic instrument’ derive from these conclusions.
 
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