Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Green idealists - valuable innovators?

26.04.2006


New research shows how radical activists have triggered innovations that are helping move the UK in a more sustainable direction. Long seen as the bane of rational economic progress, these devotees to a greener lifestyle turn out to have been a key source of ideas that have seeded new industries in areas such as food, housing and energy. Rather than dismissing activists as hopelessly idealistic, mainstream business and policy should recognise how they create a diversity of options for sustainability, and improve their own capacities to learn from them.



The study, carried out at the University of Sussex and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), clearly shows the value of “green niche” initiatives in influencing mainstream activities. The study examined three radical niches; wind energy, organic food and eco-housing. In each case, the activists’ original ideas went far beyond what actually became mainstream. Yet the role of the niche ideas in providing solutions for ‘newly’ perceived problems within the mainstream should not be under-estimated.

The report’s author, Dr Adrian Smith, said: ‘Activists often struggle to keep projects going and fail to produce the radical transformations they originally envisaged. This lack of breakthrough inclines them (and others) to under-estimate the effect of their ideas. But we found that although their influence is more subtle and beyond their control, it is still hugely significant in many cases’.


In the case of wind power, activists kept the idea of wind power alive during its wilderness years in the 1970s and 1980s when it was ignored or actively opposed by those involved in mainstream power provision. The idealists envisaged small-scale off-grid autonomous systems that were community owned. The mainstream appropriation of wind power has resulted in large wind farms connected both to the grid and to the commercial market.

In food production, niche thinking demanded sustainable local food economies based around organic farming. These ideas were transformed into an organic food industry, when mainstream farmers, food processors, and large retailers perceived the potential commercial advantage of going green, but not to the extent envisaged by activists in the organic movement.

Niche ideas in housing around environmentally friendly, reclaimable materials, autonomous buildings and self-build in small communities, have also had an influence. Here policy and regulatory pressures have directed mainstream builders towards green building ideas pioneered by activists.

Dr Smith said: ‘The fact is that elements of radical niche thinking do get adopted and incorporated. Radical green niches create diversity for when the mainstream runs into trouble, as it is at the moment over climate change. Whilst not all of the idealists’ ideas turn out to be a model for wider changes in the short term, they are important sources of innovation. And as the mainstream moves, activists re-radicalise, adapt to the new mainstream, and seek to shift it on again.’

Alexandra Saxon | alfa
Further information:
http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk/ESRCInfoCentre/ViewAwardPage.aspx?AwardId=2268

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Real-time feedback helps save energy and water
08.02.2017 | Otto-Friedrich-Universität Bamberg

nachricht The Great Unknown: Risk-Taking Behavior in Adolescents
19.01.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Stingless bees have their nests protected by soldiers

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

New risk factors for anxiety disorders

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

MWC 2017: 5G Capital Berlin

24.02.2017 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>