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Sustainable development is an objective for societies world-wide. But transitions to sustainable production and consumption have been studied primarily in rich, developed countries. However, the transformative changes now occurring in the rapidly urbanising and industrialising Asian economies and societies suggest a new focus. Transitions towards more sustainable development pathways are also fundamental challenges in Asia.
Achieving a profound decoupling of economic growth and development requires innovation based on industrial and technological capabilities, as well as deep-seated social, institutional and behavioural changes. Such large-scale, structural change we term ‘system innovation’.
Previous research has shown that system innovation occurs through a quasi-evolutionary interaction between innovations emerging in niches and opportunities for change opening up in socio-technical regimes. System innovation involves the destabilisation of incumbent regimes and the emergence of new regimes involving novel configurations of technologies, actors, behaviours and rules. System innovation takes time, typically periods of decades.
An important new research challenge is to apply these concepts and ideas to rapidly developing cities, regions and countries. In these contexts, socio-technical regimes are already undergoing modernisation, but often following models from technologically-leading countries. The question is whether niche-based innovations generating sustainable alternatives in these contexts can change development pathways by linking to and transforming emergent socio-technical regimes in key sectors like energy, water, transportation, the built environment and food and agriculture. Part of the research challenge is to understand better how niches, regimes and development pathways are embedded within global knowledge, production and governance networks. These connect and shape innovation in niches and regimes, and provide the channels by which they grow and come to have a wider influence on development locally and globally.
This conference will focus on the nature and role of sustainable system innovation in transforming Asian development pathways in field such as energy, mobility, sanitation, nutrition and housing in urban and rural areas. The conference will take stock of what has been learned in the International Human Dimensions Programme Core Project on Industrial Transformation (IHDP-IT) over the last ten years, as well as move forward a new research agenda supported by the APN (Asia-Pacific Network for Global Change Research) and the Research Council of Norway. We welcome an international network of researchers, practitioners, policy makers and other actors who are interested in innovation and in exploring how it influences alternative, more sustainable development pathways.
The conference is organised under the auspices of the IHDP’s Industrial Transformation project; APN – Asia-Pacific Network for Global Change Research; University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur; The Research Council of Norway; Eindhoven University of Technology, The Netherlands and the Jadavpur University, India