Poster

Social Innovation in Energy Transitions (SONNET) with its six transdisciplinary City Labs aimed at accelerating energy transitions: Mannheim (DE), Antwerp (BE), Bristol (UK), Grenoble (FR), Warsaw (PL) and Basel (CH)

Abstract

On behalf of the SONNET team this abstract is submitted by:

Dr Agata Dembek, co-WP lead of SONNET City Labs, Assistant Professor, Kozminski University, Warsaw, Poland (adembek@kozminski.edu.pl)

Dr Agata Stasik, co-WP lead of SONNET City Labs, Assistant Professor, Kozminski University, Warsaw, Poland

Dr Karoline Rogge, Scientific Coordinator of SONNET project and WP lead on socio-political issues, Deputy Head Policy and Society, Fraunhofer Institute Systems and Innovation Research
ISI, Karlsruhe, Germany & Senior Lecturer, SPRU, University of Sussex, UK

SONNET aims to co-create a rich understanding of the diversity, processes, contributions, success and future potentials of social innovation in the energy sector (SIE). Our empirical work bridges qualitative and quantitative  methodological approaches in an innovative research design. Among other research activities, given its focus on urban areas as major hubs for SIE, SONNET conducts six transdisciplinary SIE City Labs to experiment with new forms of SIE and learn about how multiple actors can harness the potential of SIE.

Sustainable energy transitions are conceptualized as processes leading to a transformation of European energy systems into more secure, sustainable, competitive and affordable configurations by the middle of the 21st century. SONNET focuses on social dimensions of sustainable energy transitions – in terms of socio-cultural, socio-political and socio-economic
issues – as well as their socio-technical interplay. We foreground the politics, power and multilevel and participative governance involved in such transition processes, and how they can be accelerated through social innovation.

SONNET and its City Labs adopt a transformative innovation policy lens by enacting diverse experiments aimed at accelerating sustainable energy transitions. The co-created City Labs are conducted by a variety of local government departments and units which often sit across different governmental players. We explicitly acknowledge that these local experiments are embedded in and interact with regional, national and European policy mixes for the low-carbon transformation of the energy sector.

The City Labs are co-created by six local governments (who are each leading their respective City Lab) and local academic partners who jointly design, conduct and evaluate the SONNET
labs in Mannheim (Germany), Antwerp (Belgium), Bristol (UK), Grenoble (France), Warsaw (Poland) and Basel (Switzerland). Our transdisciplinary research design assumes close collaboration between the city governments and the research organizations from the given country, but also between the cities.

Each of the participating cities, based on their own needs, experience and resources, and supported by their local academic partner, has decided to tackle certain energy-related issues (e.g. the development of novel urban governance structures and practices for enabling social innovation in the urban areas, new strategies to fight energy poverty and develop practices enhancing energy efficiency, and new financial mechanisms for funding energy-related investment). These ideas serve as a starting point for our City Labs. Our transdisciplinary research protocol allows to compare the processes and results of all six City Labs across different contexts and identify important enabling and impeding conditions. Based on these, we will jointly derive lessons learned for transformative innovation policy mixes and their multilevel interplay – both horizontally between different departments (such as climate protection or economic development) and vertically (such as local and European level).

At this moment, the SONNET City Labs are at the stage of preparation, including the development of specific research methodology. They are going to start in March 2020 and will last for an overall period of 18 months.

Our reflections on the SONNET City Labs contribute specifically to the following TIPC themes:

(3) The role of experimentation with policies and niche innovations for transformative change
by investigating the potential of scaling-up solutions created in City Labs both on the city level,to other cities in a given country, and between participating countries.

(5) The role of specific actors in transformative change: Governments, businesses, scholars, civil
society organizations – by assuming the active role of different stakeholders in co-creation processes, but also looking for better understanding of barriers for such engagement.

(6) Geographies of transformative innovation policy: Context specific characteristics, issues of
space and scale – by analyzing urban areas as arenas for co-creation of transformative innovation policy and by comparing the impact of SIE across different national context of six
participating cities and countries.

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