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Pushing innovation from below : the role of accelerator programs in the German energy transition

Jost, Charlotte Elsa LU (2018) In Master Thesis Series in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science MESM02 20181
LUCSUS (Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies)
Abstract
In order to fight climate change and meet the Paris Agreement to keep the global temperature rise below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels, there is an urgent need to change the dominant way of producing and consuming energy worldwide. However, governing an energy transition is a complex and challenging task, as different actors and interests clash on different levels. In this study, I have a closer look at the governance of the ongoing German energy transition, which has so far mainly been pushed by new market entrants while incumbent firms have been locked into the rigidity of the sector.

More specifically, I explore the role of accelerator programs in facilitating the growth of start-ups in the area of sustainable electricity... (More)
In order to fight climate change and meet the Paris Agreement to keep the global temperature rise below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels, there is an urgent need to change the dominant way of producing and consuming energy worldwide. However, governing an energy transition is a complex and challenging task, as different actors and interests clash on different levels. In this study, I have a closer look at the governance of the ongoing German energy transition, which has so far mainly been pushed by new market entrants while incumbent firms have been locked into the rigidity of the sector.

More specifically, I explore the role of accelerator programs in facilitating the growth of start-ups in the area of sustainable electricity production and supply and analyse external conditions that influence their successful expansion. Accelerators run timely limited programs designed to support new market entrants and push innovation ‘from below’. I use the German Climate KIC Accelerator as a case study while drawing and critically reflecting on the theory of Strategic Niche Management (SNM) within the Multi-Level Perspective (MLP) framework. I apply a qualitative research approach based on semi-structured interviews, supplemented by secondary sources.

My empirical findings reveal that the studied accelerator can act to a certain extent as valuable ‘niche manager’ by providing monetary support, pushing strategy development and experimentation, imparting knowledge and offering networking opportunities. Yet, slow customer acceptance, poor financing opportunities, existing power imbalances between actors of the energy market and changing regulations still pose barriers to the expansion of sustainable energy start-ups in Germany.

My practical recommendation for the studied accelerator is to make those barriers better visible and to act more as an intermediary actor between the start-ups and policy makers. The accelerator can use its aggregation function to ‘collect’ the experiences and interests of the start-ups and transfer them to a higher level. In line with the practical implications, my main proposal for adjusting the SNM theory within the MLP framework is to place a niche more central within its wider setting as well as to include more business related elements into processes on the niche level. Future research is needed to further study power dynamics and niche-regime interactions within energy transitions. (Less)
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author
Jost, Charlotte Elsa LU
supervisor
organization
course
MESM02 20181
year
type
H2 - Master's Degree (Two Years)
subject
keywords
sustainability science, energy transition governance, accelerator program, strategic niche management, multi-level analysis
publication/series
Master Thesis Series in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science
report number
2018:021
language
English
id
8948095
date added to LUP
2018-06-11 17:13:23
date last changed
2018-06-11 17:13:23
@misc{8948095,
  abstract     = {In order to fight climate change and meet the Paris Agreement to keep the global temperature rise below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels, there is an urgent need to change the dominant way of producing and consuming energy worldwide. However, governing an energy transition is a complex and challenging task, as different actors and interests clash on different levels. In this study, I have a closer look at the governance of the ongoing German energy transition, which has so far mainly been pushed by new market entrants while incumbent firms have been locked into the rigidity of the sector. 

More specifically, I explore the role of accelerator programs in facilitating the growth of start-ups in the area of sustainable electricity production and supply and analyse external conditions that influence their successful expansion. Accelerators run timely limited programs designed to support new market entrants and push innovation ‘from below’. I use the German Climate KIC Accelerator as a case study while drawing and critically reflecting on the theory of Strategic Niche Management (SNM) within the Multi-Level Perspective (MLP) framework. I apply a qualitative research approach based on semi-structured interviews, supplemented by secondary sources.

My empirical findings reveal that the studied accelerator can act to a certain extent as valuable ‘niche manager’ by providing monetary support, pushing strategy development and experimentation, imparting knowledge and offering networking opportunities. Yet, slow customer acceptance, poor financing opportunities, existing power imbalances between actors of the energy market and changing regulations still pose barriers to the expansion of sustainable energy start-ups in Germany.

My practical recommendation for the studied accelerator is to make those barriers better visible and to act more as an intermediary actor between the start-ups and policy makers. The accelerator can use its aggregation function to ‘collect’ the experiences and interests of the start-ups and transfer them to a higher level. In line with the practical implications, my main proposal for adjusting the SNM theory within the MLP framework is to place a niche more central within its wider setting as well as to include more business related elements into processes on the niche level. Future research is needed to further study power dynamics and niche-regime interactions within energy transitions.},
  author       = {Jost, Charlotte Elsa},
  keyword      = {sustainability science,energy transition governance,accelerator program,strategic niche management,multi-level analysis},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  series       = {Master Thesis Series in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science},
  title        = {Pushing innovation from below : the role of accelerator programs in the German energy transition},
  year         = {2018},
}