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The local embedding of low carbon technologies and the agency of user-side intermediaries

Barnes, Jake
Journal of cleaner production 2019 v.209 pp. 769-781
carbon, domestication, research projects, sustainable technology
‘Local embedding’ is a term increasingly used by transition researchers but in a variety of ways. As a concept it is emotive but lacks clarity. The first contribution of this paper is to explore and substantiate the concept of local embedding by drawing on three theoretical fields: socio-technical transitions, domestication studies and research on innovation intermediaries. Emphasis is placed on the work required to integrate low carbon technologies into local contexts of use by aligning multiple system elements into configurations that work. This points to a particular form of actor – those performing relational work between multiple actors and technologies, commonly known as intermediaries – as being central to the process. Three key intermediary processes – of facilitating, configuring and brokering - are thought to define the work that intermediary organisations do. Nonetheless, understanding how these key intermediary processes relate as well as the agency of intermediary organisations in local embedding is still largely uncharted territory. The paper's second contribution is the development of a process perspective on the agency of intermediary organisations in local embedding. The resulting perspective offers a means to situate and understand the agency of user-side intermediaries in local embedding and insights into later phases of transition processes.