Characterisation of Innovations within the Multi-Level Perspective with Diffusion Typology of Innovations: A Fruitful Combination

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Dorothee Keppler


This article seeks to show why and in which way a combination of the MLP with typology of innovations based on diffusion research can be fruitful for practical application of the MLP, as well as for refining the conceptual view on regime/niche interactions resulting from innovations from long established market niches. Application of the MLP to the example of absorption chiller innovations in the changing socio-technical refrigeration regime demonstrates that characterisation of innovations only by criteria offered by MLP authors can lead to inconclusive results. I argue that this is because they are innovations from market-niche technologies for which the distinction between radical and incremental innovations is not sufficient, as it neglects the changing character of innovations over time. It is important, I conclude, to clearly distinguish incremental innovations to market-niche technologies which perpetuate the radical character of their origin from incremental innovations of regime-dominant technologies. To enable a characterisation independent from the criterion of novelty that the MLP focuses on to distinguish radical and incremental innovations, I propose a more detailed classification based on theoretical and practical findings from diffusion research. Beyond facilitating a much more differentiated characterisation, this combination also opens up possibilities to reconsider and refine understanding of interdependencies of innovations from long established market-niche technologies and patterns of regime development.

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