Future innovation and technology policy for sustainable system-level transitions: the case of transport (FIP-Trans)


Significant benefits would be achieved if present-day transport systems could be transformed and oil-dependency reduced. Potential benefits include increased self-sufficiency and energy-security, reduced greenhouse gas emissions as well as new business opportunities and jobs. Previous research has shown that system transformations are difficult, partly, because of the strong path dependences of the oil based transport system and, partly, because of weaknesses in new alternatives, such as 1G biofuels. In literature, different mechanisms for path creation have been presented and the crucial role of policies for both destabilizing the old system and for promoting the emergence of the new one has been brought up. Yet more insights are needed regarding the explicit role of policies, political agency and actors in the failure or success of transitions. In order to really promote a transformation towards more sustainable transport systems, more specific knowledge is required on the path creation potential and bottlenecks of specific future  transport technologies and options in Finland  and on the potential role of innovation policies for addressing these.


This work aimed to clarify how alternative and complementary socio-technical pathways could be progressed for Finland in the transport sector. We studied and assessed the potential of innovation policy options intended to induce changes in the Finnish transport sector with a special emphasis on: (1) measures for energy efficiency and demand reduction in transport, (2) advanced biofuels and electric vehicles, and (3) vehicles and services related to public transport and light traffic.

The project consisted of three interlinked, sub-projects: first addressing the aims of the project from a policy perspective; second addressing the aims from a perspective of the actors in innovation networks; and third integrating the two other sub-projects.

The overall aim of the project was to generate policy options and frameworks for innovation policy that will facilitate system-level transitions in the transport sector and related industries in Finland. The work is based on literatures on path dependence and path creation, as well as sustainability transitions.

 To that aim, the key research questions of the project are:

  1. How can the major challenges of long-term system-level innovation policy be tackled? These challenges include such as (1) trade-offs; (2) avoidance of lock-in to options that may change; (3) avoiding short-term fluctuations in the policy in relation to innovation cycles of different technologies; (4) making necessary changes in policy tools during the transition process; (5) balancing supply-side and demand-side policy measures.
  2. How do innovation networks, including business companies, research institutes and programs, and users, aiming at long-term system-level transitions emerge and develop?
  3. What are the key elements in a green growth road map for the Finnish transport sector?



Innovation policy options for sustainability transitions in Finnish transport

The project group produced a report on Innovation policy options for sustainability transitions in Finnish transport. The report envisions alternative and complementary pathways for a transformed passenger transport system in Finland (mostly focusing on the largest cities and their neighbouring areas). Ideally new pathways fulfil both the demands for increasing sustainability and for improved service for the users of transport. The focus is on land-based passenger transport and the efforts to improve its sustainability, particularly on ways to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases.  The analysis provides a novel view by drawing explicitly on the theoretical perspective of socio-technical transitions: our key aim is to show how this perspective can contribute to policy innovation related to passenger transport.

10 policy recommendations in four categories were drawn: support for experimentation for niche development, policy integration for regime change, market formation for consolidating regime shifts, and recognition and support of “neglected niches”. The recommendations are listed below.

Policy recommendations

  1. Support experiments that aim at understanding and enhancing changes necessary in the whole socio-technical system.
  2. Emphasise acceptability of failures in experimentation and demonstration programmes.
  3. Support simultaneously multiple complementary niches
  4. Enhance broad networking, creation of widely applicable knowledge and mutual learning
  5. Strengthen cooperation between policy domains to improve coherence of policies and create policy mixes for sustainability transitions
  6. Map carefully and reduce barriers to niche innovations
  7. Design and implement environmental and transport policies in a way that takes into account how policy instruments create demand for innovative technologies, products and services
  8. Design policies for market formation.
  9. Design policies to improve access of consumers to affordable high quality sustainable products and services.
  10. Start specific innovation programmes for enhancing entrepreneurial experimentation towards reduction of transport demand and promoting seamless intermodal transport

The full report can be downloaded from here.


FIPTrans Public opinion survey results

During October 2013 a large sample (n=1081) survey of Finnish public opinion of low carbon transport innovation was elicited with an online survey instrument in the contrasting travel to work areas (TTWAs) of Helsinki, Tampere and Oulu. The survey was conducted by TNS global for the Tekes-funded project FIPTrans, with design and analysis by SYKE, the Finnish Environment Institute.

Main report of the FIPTrans Public opinion survey (pdf)

Conference presentation: Environmental Governance and Public Opinion (pdf)




Scientific articles

Upham P, Kivimaa P, Virkamäki V. 2013. Path dependence and technological expectations in transport policy: the case of Finland and the UK. Journal of Transport Geography 32: 12–22.

Temmes A, Räsänen R-S, Rinkinen J & Lovio R. 2013. The Emergence of Niche Protection through Policies: The Case of Electric Vehicles Field in Finland. Science & Technology Studies 26, No. 3: 37-62.

Kivimaa P & Virkamäki V. 2014. Policy Mixes, Policy Interplay and Low Carbon Transitions: The Case of Passenger Transport in Finland. Environmental Policy and Governance 24, Issue 1: 28-41.

Kivimaa P. 2014. Government-affiliated intermediary organisations as actors in system-level transitions. Research Policy, in press.

Upham P, Kivimaa P, Mickwitz P, Åstrand K. Climate policy innovation: a socio-technical transitions perspective on transport policies in Finland, Sweden and the UK (Accepted to Environmental Politics)

Huttunen, S., Kivimaa, P. & Virkamäki, V. The need for policy coherence to trigger a transition to biogas production. (Accepted to Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions)

Peixoto, I., Temmes, A., Lovio, R. Emergence of novelty in an era of ferment: processes of path creation in biofuels. (Submitted to Perspectives on Process Organization Studies)



Antikainen R, Mickwitz P, Seppälä J, Virkamäki V, Leppänen M, Hujala T, Riala M, Nummelin T, Paavilainen L, Vihinen H, Kurppa S, Kitti L, Thessler S. 2013. Vihreän kasvun mahdollisuudet. Valtioneuvoston kanslian raporttisarja 2/2013, Helsinki.


Conference papers

Upham, P., Kivimaa, P., Åstrand, K. & Mickwitz, P. 2012 Climate Policy Innovation for transport in Finland, Sweden and the UK: a comparison from a socio-technical transitions perspective. Presented at the Research Workshop on Climate Policy Innovation 23-24 February 2012, Amsterdam.

Upham, P., Kivimaa, P., Virkamäki, V. 2012. Where climate and innovation policy meet: representation of options in transportation system change.IST 2012 – Navigating Theories and Challenging Realities, Track C papers on Governance and Policy, Copenhagen 29-31 August, 2012, p.139-168.

Kivimaa, P., Virkamäki, V. 2012. Role of public policies in the future 'designs' of the personal transport system - barriers and opportunities for system change. The Annual Meeting of the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S) "Design and displacement - social studies of science and technology", 17-20 October 2012, Copenhagen. 

Virkamäki, V., Temmes A. 2013. Technology-neutral policies. Creating path dependency? International conference on Sustainability Transitions. June 19-21, 2013, Switzerland.

Räsänen, R-S., Temmes, A. & Lovio, R. 2013 Three perspectives on the evolving electric vehicles innovation network of Finland. Aalto University publication series Business + Economy. 3/2013. http://epub.lib.aalto.fi/en/wp/?cmd=show&wpid=1127.

Peixoto, I., Temmes, A. & Lovio, R. 2013 How the emergence of multiple paths shapes a new field: examining variety and deviation in fuel production. Fifth International Symposium on Process Organization Studies. Theme: The Emergence of Novelty in Organizations. 20-22 June 2013. Greece

Joller, L., Lovio R. & Temmes, A.. 2013. Accelerating electric vehicles' market diffusion in Northern Europe with infrastructure development. International Conference on Sustainability Transitions. June 19-21, 2013, Switzerland.

Upham, P., Virkamäki, V., Kivimaa, P. & Hilden, M. 2014. Environmental Governance and Public Opinion: the case of Finnish transport innovation policy. International Bioenergy Conference Manchester,



Research Team at SYKE

Climate Change Programme:

Dr. Mikael Hildén, Professor

Kirsi Mäkinen, Researcher

Environmental Governance Studies Unit:

Dr. Paula Kivimaa, Senior Researcher (Project leader)

Dr. Paul Upham, Visiting Professor at SYKE & Senior Research Fellow at University of Leeds

Venla Virkamäki, Researcher

Further Information

Paula Kivimaa, Environmental Governance Studies Unit, SYKE (firstname.lastname@ymparisto.fi)



Published 2013-05-03 at 14:51, updated 2023-05-25 at 16:57

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