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Renewable energy technology innovation in non-western communities

Schläpfer, August (2002) Renewable energy technology innovation in non-western communities. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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The aim of this thesis is to examine the importance of local innovation systems in the renewable energy technology innovation process and dissemination in non-Western communities and compare it to those of national innovation systems. It uses examples from the renewable energy sector with technologies developed in the West and non- Western communities where they are being introduced. The main argument is that innovative sustainable technology should be adapted to local conditions to include local knowledge, rather than relegating local people’s ideas to the background. Such thinking and actions will facilitate significantly the process of technology transfer and technology learning.

In theory, the concept of national systems of innovation helps to understand the development of a nation by transforming scientific and technological advances into economic use. In practice, this means that there exists a range of institutions within the society which are the pillars and facilitators of the process of learning. These national institutions, however, cannot always cater for the specific economic needs, social, cultural and ecological concerns of different regions within the nation state. In addition, they can also become a vehicle for powerful lobby groups often even foreign to the country to promote the development and implementation of particular technologies for ill-defined benefits. Personal, company or industry gains are put ahead of community values with the common good being sacrificed.

A local system of innovation, on the other hand, will be built around local social structures and institutions and will more accurately reflect the knowledge and skill development within the community. It is perhaps not so much a question of what kind of innovation system is best, but rather, which system is best suited to achieve a specific aim. There are cases, where a national innovation system will be the most appropriate for the development of a new technology, and on the other hand, a more localised system may be required to implement an acquired technology. Thus innovation and its systems need to be put in the broader context of human activity.

In the less developed world, or remote communities in the developed world, where technology transfer takes place, it is imperative to consider the notion that to invest into technology transfer without considering the local context is more likely to result in failure. That is why it can be argued that systems of innovation, in order to ensure success, have to be compatible with local sources of knowledge. The exclusion of locality has been in the past, and will continue to form a major stumbling block for innovation.

Several case studies in rural Indonesian - villages and an Australian Aboriginal community are used to clarify the nature of the problems associated with renewable energy technology innovation in non-Western communities and to show the importance of local innovation systems.

The thesis posits that a structural overlap between the global and the local system will go some way in addressing the inherent power disparity between the local indigenous target community and the national and supranational global renewable energy technology providers.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Division of Social Sciences, Humanities and Education
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Marinova, Dora
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