The Role of Innovation in a Postgrowth Society
From an economic perspective, innovation and growth constitute a very close relationship with the former being a prerequisite for, and at the same time relying on, the latter. However, continued growth requires increasing amounts of natural resources and by doing so leads to the transgression of the boundaries for a safe operation of the system earth. In order to avoid this drawback, a halt (steady state) or even reversal of growth (de- or postgrowth) is proposed. What does this mean for innovation? This chapter shows that innovation is a far more diverse and complex phenomenon as the common notion of growth-related techno-economic innovation suggests. Not only are there different types of innovation, but also the relationship between these diverse innovation types, their intended impacts, nonintended side effects, and contributions to universally accepted societal goals such as well-being or sustainability is heterogeneous and far from linear. Although economic growth might remain a more or less relevant intermediate factor in some contexts, it generally seems by no means indispensable, neither as a prerequisite for innovation nor as a means to reach well-being nor as an end in itself.