System Building as Missing Link in Sustainability Transitions: Developing, Validating and Reflecting a Framework for the Upper Rhine Region

The project analyses what is needed for sustainability transitions to lead to new functioning and sustainable systems. Sustainability transitions, i.e., fundamental changes in socio-technical systems such as energy and food, are a dominant theme in European policy making, such as in the European Green Deal. Research has developed a deep understanding of how innovations emerge in these systems, how they accelerate, and how they eventually put existing regimes under pressure to change. However, there is a lack of understanding of the late stage of such transitions, the consolidation or establishment of alternative functioning systems that are considered more sustainable than the previous ones. The project explores this stage of sustainability transitions, which is called system building. This includes a conceptual analysis, a first validation in the energy and food systems as well as an application to regional transformation activities in the Upper Rhine region.

We expect the following results:

  1. An elaborated and validated scientific framework for system building
  2. Reflections on the practical implications of system building in the context of regional energy and food transitions in the Upper Rhine region – prepared with the participation of relevant practitioners from the two fields and published in the form of a policy brief.
  3. An outline for a joint research project of the consortium.

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