Beyond the Technological Revolution

Lund Workshop on the State and Sustainability, 2017

Beyond the Technological Revolution workshop hosted by Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies (LUCSUS), University of Lund

7– 8 March 2017

Lund University is celebrating its 350th anniversary throughout 2017. As part of the celebrations, Carlota was invited to speak at the jubilee edition of the university’s televised debate series, Debatt i Lund. Entitled ‘Is The World Becoming A Better Place’, she joined philosopher Martha Nussbaum and peace and conflict researcher James Robinson, along with local researchers Alf Hornborg, human ecologist, and the political scientist Jan Teorell. Carlota’s talk and the ensuing debate can be viewed here:

Carlota worked with professors Mats Benner, from the Department of Business Administration, and Lennart Olson of Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies (LUCSUS) to convene a 2-day workshop on the Nordic experience of the public sector’s role in the transition to sustainability. While historical research on the role of the state in previous transitions between techno-economic paradigms forms the core of our work at BTTR, understanding and promoting best-practice in the present transitional moment – and how this relates to the patterns of the past – is key to the project’s overall mission.

Policy practitioners and academic experts were invited from all four Nordic states, and from neighbouring Estonia, where Carlota regularly teaches. The aim was to collect both theoretical and practical inputs, with the presentation by participants of local case studies relating to different areas of transition policy.

The workshop was also open to Lund students, researchers and other interested parties.

Workshop Invitation

Is there a potential in Europe for ‘smart green growth’ and a sustainable future? Analysing the Nordic experience in public sector promotion of the transition

The pending threat of global warming and the limits to natural resources are posing serious challenges to humanity. They can be confronted by restrictions, sacrifices, reductions in growth and in comfort or they can be seen as a stimulus for innovation in sustainable production methods and for enabling new lifestyles that are healthy, creative, satisfactory and sustainable for current and future generations. A new model for the ‘good life’.

The Scandinavian countries have been pioneering many of the necessary changes, led by local and national government agencies. There is much that they can learn from each other’s experience and even more that can be learned by other countries when they set themselves similar goals. But the Scandinavian experience begs two questions: are the changes sufficient and can they be implemented elsewhere?

The efforts that are being made today in several countries – especially by local governments and special agencies  – to promote sustainable growth with viable production strategies and lifestyles are an important input for a wider discussion about what could be seen and promoted as the ‘European Way of Life’. It would be a ‘good life’ taking advantage of the capabilities offered by the ICT revolution and its leaning towards intangibles, as distinguished from what was the ‘American Way of Life’, well adapted to the energy and materials-intensive nature of the mass production revolution.

The notion we are exploring is much wider than a low-carbon future to avoid global warming. Smart Green Growth would aim at a significant reduction of the material content in both GDP and lifestyles and on a global scale. The areas that we would like to explore in the workshop are experiments/policies:

  1. promoting renewable energy, conservation, sustainable architecture, etc.
  2. promoting recycling, durability, reuse, sharing, etc.
  3. aiming to mitigate the welfare consequences of the ICT revolution such as basic income, new forms of job creation, lifelong education, social innovation, etc.

Workshop Presentations

Lennart Olsson, founder of LUCSUS (Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies), Sweden
Introduction and welcome


Capitalism, Technology and a Green Golden Age: The Role of History in Helping the State to Shape the Future
Carlota Perez, Visiting Professor, LSE and Academic-in-Residence, Anthemis, UK
A central claim of Perez’s work is that changes in lifestyle are brought about with each technological revolution – and that it is popular aspiration to such changes, supported by investment, regulation and other tools of the State, that can enable the flourishing of technological potential into ‘golden ages’. Here she suggests that a new, sustainable ‘good life’ is already taking hold in the Nordic states, and, making historical parallels with previous shifts, questions its viability and applicability to the rest of Europe and beyond. [slides]


Knowledge Platform: System Innovation for Societal Challenges
Lea Fuenfschilling, Circle, Lund University, Sweden
Fuenfschilling, a researcher in the Centre for Innovation, Research And Competence in the Learning Economy at Lund (CIRCLE), introduces the Transformative Innovation Policy Consortium (TIPC), a network and knowledge platform created to support research and policy creation and implementation in the field of system innovation. The TIPC is currently supported in six countries, including by Vinnova, the Swedish governmental innovation agency, and SPRU (the Science Policy Research Unit at the University of Sussex). Their emphasis is on developing relationships between research and policy-making and on the co-creation of policy: they aim to frame the policy-making process as a space in which to construct social spaces and create common ground. [slides]


What Is Sustainable Development?
Lennart Olsson, founder of LUCSUS (Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies), Sweden
Olsson takes a more critical view of the Nordic model, particularly from the sustainability perspective. He highlights the global politics of climate change and other environmental issues, noting, for example, the effect of adding CO2 imported from consumption into the Nordics’ ecological footprints, counteracting the energy-saving improvements made domestically. And while optimistic about technological potential, he is pessimistic about political capacity, noting that polarisation and individualisation is becoming the new norm, replacing consensus-building and the notions of global citizenship. [slides]


District heating and cycling
Jens Stissing Jensen, Aalborg University, Denmark
Jensen believes that our cities are currently held back by the infrastructural building blocks of the past century, and that it is finding the systems of the future that is real ‘smart’ governance – not simply the digitization of government services. He looks at two Danish attempts to do just that at the city level, which, rat present, seems to be a more nimble, forward-looking site for innovation in governance than the national. The first is the push to store energy in district heating – and what happens when a city loses taxes on ‘bads’ (such as fossil fuel energy) once green energy dominates. The second is the attempt to reframe cycling as the dominant mode of city transport, and how this leads to radically different data and planning strategies – thus supporting his assertion that governance should be ‘challenge’ rather than ‘method’ oriented. [slides]


State involvement in greening of industry and the emergence of new ’experimental culture’
Paula Kivimaa, Senior Research Fellow, SPRU, University of Sussex; Senior Researcher, Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE), Finland
Kivimaa explores the shift from, links between, and limits of, the previous – and relatively successful – regulatory innovation-promoting state culture in Finland, and the new experimental culture of governance. This new approach sees a more relaxed approach to regulations, driven by a very small team in government with both academic and policy experience, keen to explore alternatives and complements to state-led governance, with an emphasis on policy, social and technical experimentation. She also presents the Finnish Smart Energy Transition Consortium – a database of over 100 pilot projects and field experiments. 


Norway: Oil tycoon and green growth champion?
Taran Thune, TIK Center for Technology, Innovation and Culture, University of Oslo, Norway
Thune looks at the paradoxes within Norway’s sustainability policies. Around 50% of all Norwegian exports are related to petroleum, resulting in the largest sovereign fund in the world. Therefore the nation’s desire, not only for a green transition at home, but also to play the role of a global green innovator, will, if achieved, destabilise the most important part of the Norwegian economy. The National Strategy for Green Growth and National Bioeconomy Strategy, both from 2016, are examined in the light of this policy ‘stalemate’. 


Greening Norway: Nordic Model and Ecology
Atle Middtun, Norwegian Business School, Norway
Middtun continues an exploration of the Nordic paradoxes, locating the conflicts in the historical makeup of the Nordic model: a working class core, idealistic and highly pragmatic, desiring both a high level of welfare and egalitarian distribution. Despite the ‘prosocial resource management’ policies that have resulted, he echoes Olssen’s critical view of the sustainability rhetoric, particularly where carbon consumption and offsetting are concerned, but also examines many areas in which Norway is forging ahead, and why. Examples include the switch to electric cars; a corporatized green strategy; and the steps taken to ‘greening’ Oslo. 


Public sector innovation in energy: The case of Elering smart grid platform – Estfeed
Kaija Valdmaa, Research Fellow, Tallinn University of Technology (TUT), Estonia
Valdmaa examines the public procurement of innovation in Estonia, and the impact of both the ICT revolution and supranational governance (by way of the European Union) on recent history. She uses the independent electricity and gas transmission system operator Elering as a case study, considering its role in R&D, policy formation and market regulation. Estfeed, Elering’s smart grid data sharing platform, is evaluated for its ability to increase the efficiency of energy consumption, production and transmission.