Basic Concepts

Part of the SpringerBriefs in Business book series (BRIEFSBUSINESS)


In this chapter the essential basic concepts that are needed to build a socio-technical map are presented. Any social function—such as feeding, housing, mobility, supply of energy, healthcare, etc.—is fulfilled by one or more socio-technical (ST) systems. Each ST system consists of a network of innovators and a structure of material and immaterial constituents. Usually one ST system holds a dominant position: only ST “niches” are partially or totally protected from its selection pressure. The dynamics of ST systems may be grouped into two large families: the adaptation of a dominant ST system and the establishment of a new dominant position. Niches play a relevant role in both kinds of dynamics. The political dimension of the dynamics of ST systems becomes relevant when a dominant position is taken over: niche innovators must scale up a cumulative process between empowerment, legitimation and networking in order to gain a stable role into the public debate and possibly to influence the direction of change of agendas and actual policies. A sustainability transition (SusTran) is needed when a social functions is currently dominated by (or locked into) a ST system that is environmentally unsustainable. The mere adaptation of an existing dominant ST system is not sufficient to generate a SusTran. This is why the take-over of the dominant position of an unsustainable ST system is a necessary condition for a SusTran to take place.


Socio-technical system Socio-technical niche Innovators Transition pathways Sustainability transition 


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© The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.DiSEAUniversity of SassariSassariItaly
  2. 2.DICEAUniversity of Rome “La Sapienza”RomeItaly
  3. 3.DIEMUniversity of GenovaGenoaItaly

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