About the project

Background and objectives

The quest for sustainability has become one of the most urgent societal questions of our time. Largely driven by the global concern over climate change, national governments and supranational organisations have increasingly sought to adopt strategies and commitments to emission reductions and changes in the patterns of consumption and production of energy. At the same time, climate change has become seen as a huge economic opportunity, and rather high expectations have emerged concerning the capability of achieving greener development paths through technological advancement. This trajectory, however, has not only led to efforts of incorporating environmental concern into administration and private sector but also generated new challenges for governance, divisions of responsibility, and politico-economic dynamics.

The OECD has recently adopted the notion of Green Growth with an aim to combine objectives of environmental and economic policies and to simultaneously promote a transformation towards a cleaner low-carbon economy and long-term economic growth. A transition towards Green Growth as suggested by the OECD would require, however, profound socio-technical and institutional changes at multiple levels and across sectoral politics, involving a variety of actors from SMEs to policy-makers, local authorities, national governments and supranational organisations. This study utilises a multi-level perspective (MLP) to address these challenges. From this perspective, changes in socio-technical systems are importantly driven by the interaction of three key elements that operate at different levels: micro-level niches, established meso-level regimes (incl. rules, norms, social relationships, and interests) and macro-level socio-technical landscapes (incl., e.g., cultural values, resource scarcities, and political coalitions).

Research questions

The project develops the MLP approach in three respects in order to enhance its applicability in producing more policy-relevant and contextually informed results. First, the MLP is extended from an inherently national orientation towards a global perspective by placing national transformations into a broader international framework. Second, the study highlights interactions between structures and agency, emphasising in particular the role of stakeholders as important carriers of socio-technical changes in the “making of green knowledge”. Third, it emphasises the multi-dimensional nature of the interactions between niches, regimes and landscapes, and directs attention to the role of governance in socio-technical transitions, particularly with respect to agency and intervention.

The study examines Finnish green governance and the possibilities and hindrances related policies and practices create for development of green innovations. We examine policies and strategies – namely innovation and environment policies – as well as funding and other supportive practices that aim at producing environmentally sustainable innovations. By analysing ideas of innovation, development, environment, and sustainability and the ways in which these are turned into practise, the project identifies possibilities and weaknesses in Finnish green governance. In addition, it examines socially responsible strongholds for Finnish companies in global markets, with a focus on the interplay between Finnish innovation system, companies, and emerging economies. The research is not only policy analysis, but also produces knowledge about stakeholder relationships and viewpoints in constructing understandings about green transitions. It contains two research perspectives:

  1. National level policy analysis. How is green growth understood and implemented in different sectors and policies in Finland, especially national innovation and environmental policies?
  2. Analysis of local cases in the global environment (“glocal” level). What are possible and existing cooperation areas of green growth for Finnish companies with emerging economies like Brazil, Peru and India?

The project is conducted in 2012-2014 and it is funded by Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation Tekes and the Helsinki Institute of Science and Technology Studies (HIST).