MuT - Monitoring of urban Technologies: Classification, Specification, Evaluation
Mission-oriented research programmes, such as Stadt der Zukunft, aim to promote sustainable technologies that bring about transformative change. Thus, the challenge is to define objectives, scope and limits of new technologies and technical systems, to identify strengths and weaknesses in the innovation system and, based on this analysis, to create more room for manoeuvre in shaping sustainable cities. Today, a number of concepts and methods for assessing the readiness of technologies are available. However, these approaches are not able to assess the level of development of comprehensive, socially embedded system solutions for the sustainable city of the future.
Contents and Objectives
This study has three objectives: First, it presents existing methods to measure the readiness of technologies and discusses their ability for assessing the maturity of socio-technical system solutions. Second, starting from this, it develops a new model that is able to handle the complexity of socio-technical system solutions. Third, it validates the basic functionality of this model on the basis of five qualitative cases studies.
The project is founded on extensive literature reviews. The framework of the new model to assess the maturity of socio-technical innovations is composed of concepts from philosophy and sociology of technology, and science and technology studies. Information on the five case studies is based on extensive Internet search and analysis of documentary materials.
The review of existing methods for assessing the readiness of technologies shows that these approaches are able to consider contexts of use and market environments only to a small extent. In general, they are not qualified to produce comprehensive assessments of inno-vations.
Thus, the project developed a new model based on the concept of socio-technical innovation. In our context, a socio-technical innovation is a new combination of elements to solve sustainability problems in the city. The concept comprises seven heterogeneous elements: technology, rules, user practices and markets, cultural meanings, infrastructure, as well as production and maintenance networks.
So far the model presented is a first draft. It applies three qualitative levels (low, medium, high) to assess the maturity of the individual elements.
Based on this simple model five case studies have been conducted covering the following topics:
- Wastewater heat recovery
- Urban power-to-heat system
- Electric vehicle fleet
- Cycle superhighways
- Repair initiative with 3D-printer
The case studies show that the proposed and tested model is capable of producing new orientational knowledge describing the state of development of sustainable innovations.
Suggestions for future research
Based on previous experience with the study of maturity levels of socio-technical innovations we propose three alternative options for the further development of the existing model:
- To extend and improve the qualitative model;
- to advance the previously pursued approach towards a semi-structured model;
- to develop a standardized method suitable for rough assessments.
Institut für Technikfolgen-Abschätzung, Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften