Leapfrogging into the future – developing for sustainability
Arnold Tukker, TNO-STB, Netherlands
It has become almost a platitude that a Factor 4-10 improvement of effective fulfillment of needs should be reached in one generation in order to prevent that Nature will break down under the combined pressure of population growth and the growth in the wealth per capita. This requires ‘radical’ or ‘system’ innovations.

In this respect, there is an important difference between mature economies such as Europe, the EU and Japan on the one hand, and rapidly expanding economies like China, Thailand, Malaysia etc. in Asia: • In mature economies the physical economical infrastructure is already fully developed, which causes often important ‘lock-in’ problems with regard to realizing radical change; • In rapidly expanding economies (who might cause the biggest leap in environmental pressure) this infrastructure by and large still has to be built up, and in theory there is much more freedom to design sustainable systems from the onset.

But is this ‘leapfrogging’, theoretically possible and practically desirable, really going to happen? Current experiences are not encouraging: ‘dinosaur’ industries like the car industry are invited to invest heavily in countries like China leading to a transplantation of existing problematic transport infrastructures. So is there an alternative? This paper will explore for a number of key ‘need areas’ (e.g. transport, food, housing) sustainable solutions/systems, gathered under the umbrella of SusProNet (an EU-funded network in the field of sustainable solution design). We will also analyse typical driving factors and barriers for success of such solutions, and indicate what typical partnerships are needed to make them reality rather than the business-as-usual options.

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