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The roles of the state in the governance of socio-technical systems' transformation

: Borrás, Susana; Edler, Jakob


Research policy 49 (2020), No.5, Art. 103971, 9 pp.
ISSN: 0048-7333
Journal Article
Fraunhofer ISI ()
transformative; innovation policy; Transitions; diffusion; grand challenges; governance

The transformative turn of innovation policy has resulted in calls for a more entrepreneurial and directional role of the state. However, the multiple roles that the state might play remains underexplored. This paper studies the embedded role of the state in four distinct modes of governance of socio-technical systems. Using a three-pillar analytical model, the paper examines four illustrative cases: cryptocurrencies, smart cities, automated vehicles, and nuclear power. The paper identifies 13 different roles of the state: observer, warner, mitigator, opportunist, facilitator, lead-user, enabler of societal engagement, gatekeeper, promoter, moderator, initiator, guarantor and watchdog. The conceptualization of these roles serves to understand that the transformative agency of the state is leveraged/constrained by the modes of governance, and that it is also ultimately exercised through specific mixes of roles.