Barriers, drivers and context environment of technological innovation : An analysis of the biogas industry in Russia

Abstract: Global warming issues and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions are high on many political agendas, and many scientists urge immediate changes to existing energy systems. In order to limit the drastic effects of climate change, complex solutions should be found that affect various sectors such as energy, agriculture, waste management, and transport. The value chain segments of the biogas industry belong to the above-stated sectors and biogas production can play an important role in addressing pollution control from these sectors. Despite the enormous potential of biogas, its realisation is rather slow and heterogeneous. Therefore, this PhD thesis intends to advance knowledge of the biogas industry by identifying and assessing barriers and driving forces for its deployment. Besides the identification of common development factors of the biogas industry, this thesis provides an in-depth analysis of the biogas industry in Russia. Biogas technologies can become a useful solution since they not only provide clean energy but also solve the problem of waste, which itself is a rather painful topic for residents of Russia.Technological innovation system (TIS) framework is taken as a theoretical point of departure in this thesis. Technological innovation has often been perceived as an essential part of any solution to tackle grand sustainability challenges, and the TIS concept constitutes a detailed model for the emergence and diffusion of innovation by covering an elaborate set of key processes and focusing on blocking and inducement mechanisms. At the same time, little is known about innovation processes in non-Western countries and emerging economies that deal with transition processes. Therefore, this PhD thesis contributes to the TIS research community by investigating the biogas industry in Russia and applying the TIS approach. Building on the following theoretical and empirical scopes, this PhD thesis investigates three particular research questions related to (1) a complete picture of barriers and driving forces for the biogas industry; (2) the evolution of the biogas industry in Russia; and (3) the context environment that affects biogas technology’s formation and functioning in Russia. This thesis also discusses several specific implications of the findings for theory and practice.In the theoretical part, the thesis contributes to the literature on innovation systems and sustainability transition by investigating the transformations of technological innovation, seeing it as a complex process that involves diverse contextual factors, multiple dimensions, and levels. It shows the importance of extending the TIS perspective with a more elaborate understanding of the structures and processes in its context environment. Furthermore, the thesis sheds some light on the notion of system drivers and explains what system drivers conceptually mean when TIS is taken from a theoretical standpoint. Last but not least, this PhD research presents arguments for bringing together insights from two broad sets of literature on 1) socio-technical transitions (in the form of TIS) and 2) policy process theory (in the form of an advocacy coalition framework) in order to improve the TIS analytical framework so that it can more effectively be used to study policy change and scrutinise analyses of technological innovation dynamics.In empirical terms, this thesis has focused on the evolution of the biogas industry. This study provides a novel contribution to the literature by integrating the existing barriers and drivers to the wider uptake of biogas as a source of energy into systematic classifications. Possible solutions on how to overcome the most critical barriers and how to strengthen the drivers are also suggested. Furthermore, this PhD thesis provides a thorough analysis of the biogas industry in Russia, including an estimation of its potential, identification of driving forces and barriers for the wider uptake of biogas technologies, and specific policy recommendations to overcome the most critical barriers. It also investigates Russia’s policy development of solar, wind, and bio-energies.

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