Accepted Paper:

Deconstructing bioeconomic innovation narratives  


Lotte Asveld (Delft University of Technology)

Paper long abstract:

The emerging field of the bioeconomy is conceptualised by central actors such as the European Commission and the OECD as a technological trajectory towards a sustainable society. Switching from fossil resources such as oil to biomass, is expected to decrease CO2-emissions and to reduce waste and pollution. This innovation narrative has however been criticised for promoting techno-scientific innovation as societal progress, while it mainly reinforces existing economic power imbalances and neoliberal market mechanisms.

Analysing the dominant bioeconomic innovation narratives through the lens of the seminal theory of 'Diffusion of Innovations' (DOI) by Rogers, sheds light on the main factors that have led to successful bioeconomic innovations such as first generation biofuels. Although first generation biofuels have met with considerable resistance, they are nonetheless widespread, indicating that broad societal acceptance has not been the prime driver for biofuels. According to DOI, sustainability doesn't qualify as the main driver behind their diffusion either. Other aspects of this innovation, such as compatibility with existing infrastructures, were probably more important.

This analysis ties in with criticism on the dominant innovation narrative in the bioeconomy which has been voiced, among others, by STS scholars. As such DOI strengthens STS approaches of deconstructing meaning. Additionally this approach offers instruments to tailor technological trajectories such as the bioeconomy towards societally desirable goals such as a sustainable society, i.e. it can bring STS from deconstructing to constructing technologies going beyond merely including stakeholders as is proposed by approaches such as Responsible Research and Innovation or Constructive Technology Assessment.

Panel K2
Cross-breeding science and technology studies and innovation studies