Process industry

Innovation policies key to industrial transformation

​The industrial transformation towards green technologies is imperative and urgent – yet hard and time-consuming. Barbara Hedeler at Chalmers examines how national innovation policies can make a difference and uses three Nordic examples to pave the way for policymakers to accelerate the transformation.
​The Paris Climate Agreement is extremely clear: extensive carbon emission cuts are crucial in the coming years. This requires fundamental changes in all parts of society, including the established industry.
Policymakers have an important role to play in accelerating the transformation of the industry towards emerging technologies such as biofuels, hydrogen, and electrification, and governments must provide direction and incentives for change. But even so, there is still much uncertainty about the role of policies for industrial transformation and the creation of new value chains.

This is what Barbara Hedeler has tackled in her doctoral research, which she now presents in her licentiate thesis. An important goal is to provide a basis for the development of innovative solutions to policy design.

“Better knowledge about the possibilities and limitations of innovation policy to influence the transformation of the industry has high practical relevance. I hope this research can contribute to a greater understanding of the opportunities and challenges for national policymakers to accelerate industrial transformation in global contexts”, she says.

Examines policy mixes in Sweden and Finland

Barbara Hedeler highlights that governments worldwide increasingly try to combine domestic industrialization goals with large-scale systemic changes in the industry to decarbonize existing production processes. This is neither easy nor a quick fix.

“From past technological developments, we know that changing existing socio-technical systems is difficult and usually takes many decades”, she says.

In her thesis, Barbara studies three different examples of past industrial transformations in Finland and Sweden, thereby providing knowledge about how policy mixes can affect change processes in industry.

“We found that how policies are designed and changed over time has large effects on how different actors are motivated to participate in such transitions. As part of this, we found five types of value chains that describe how national actors are typically integrated into global value chains – from importers of renewable energies to domestic technology developers and producers. We also explain the role of national policy in the development of these different types,” she says.

A supportive environment for Ph.D. students

In her future research, Barbara will continue to examine the link between innovation policy design and industrial transformation. She enjoys being a Ph.D. Student at Chalmers and the division ESA (Environmental Systems Analysis) and appreciates that it allows her to experience different parts of academia, including research and teaching.

“The Ph.D. research school puts great weight on our development into researchers with regular workshops on different aspects related to social sciences, such as theory building or text-based discussions. Overall, it gives a chance to become part of the academic environment here at Chalmers, but also internationally, and to meet many inspiring people along the way” she says.

At the same time, she notes that being a Ph.D. student has its ups and downs.

“You must acquire a lot of knowledge and skills within a fairly short time frame. But it really helps to be part of the research group at ESA and in the department and exchange ideas and learn together with other Ph.D. students. My supervisors are also great and always lend a helping hand when needed”, she says.

Text: Ulrika Ernström
Photo: portrait Carolina Pires Bertuol, genre photo Marek Piwnicki on Unsplash

Page manager Published: Thu 20 Oct 2022.