Development and diffusion of building-integrated photovoltaics: analysing innovation dynamics in multi-sectoral technologies
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The ongoing transformation of the energy system along a more sustainable trajectory requires advancements in a range of technological fields, as well as active involvement of different societal groups. Integration of photovoltaic (PV) systems in the built environment in particular is expected to play a crucial long-term role in the deployment of renewable energy technologies in urban areas, demanding the successful cooperation of planners, architects, engineers, scientists and users. The realisation of that technological change will require innovation at both an individual (within firms and organisations) and a collective (sector) level, giving rise to systemic approaches for its characterisation and analysis of its drivers. This study investigates the processes that either accelerate or hinder the development and diffusion of Building-Integrated PV (BIPV) applications into the market. Affected by developments in both the renewable energy and construction industries, the BIPV innovation system is a multi-sectoral case that has been explored only partially up to now. Acknowledging the fact that drivers of innovation span the globalised BIPV supply chain, this research adopts both an international and a national spatial perspective focusing on the UK. The analysis is based on a novel analytical framework which was developed in order to capture innovation dynamics at different levels, including technological advancements within firms, competition and synergy with other emerging and established innovation systems and pressures from the wider socio-economic configuration. This hybrid functional framework was conceived by combining elements from three academic strands: Technological Innovation Systems, the Multi-Level Perspective and Business Studies. The empirical research is based on various methods, including desktop research, semi-structured interviews and in-depth firm-level case studies. A thorough market assessment provides the techno-economic background for the research. The hybrid framework is used as a guide throughout the empirical investigation and is also implemented in the analytical part of the study to organise and interpret the findings, in order to assess the overall functionality of the innovation system. The analysis has underlined a range of processes that affect the development and diffusion of BIPV applications including inherent technological characteristics, societal factors and wider transitions within the energy and construction sectors. Future approaches for the assessment and governance of BIPV innovation will need to address its hybrid character and disruptiveness with regards to incumbent configurations, in order to appreciate its significance over the short and long term. Methodological and conceptual findings show that the combination of insights from different analytical perspectives offers a broader understanding of the processes affecting innovation dynamics in emerging technologies. Different approaches can be used in tandem to overcome methodological weaknesses, provide different analytical perspectives and assess the performance of complex innovation systems, which may span multiple countries and sectors. By better reflecting complexities, tensions and synergies, the framework developed here offers a promising way forward for the analysis of emerging sustainable technologies.