Developing and (not) implementing radical energy efficiency innovations: A case study of R&D projects in the Norwegian manufacturing industry

  • Irina Nikolayevna Isaeva
Publisert i
Journal of Cleaner Production
ISSN 0959-6526 e-ISSN 1879-1786
Studio Apertura

The prospect of enabling more sustainable industries through energy efficiency innovations has received increased attention in policy and research. In Norway, previous studies have identified a techno-economic potential of 12 TWh reduction in direct energy use and an additional 10 TWh utilization of surplus heat, in industries. However, the novelty and complexity of energy efficient technologies can make their adoption, and hence utilizing this potential, difficult. This paper explores the development and implementation of two high-temperature heat pumps and one heat recovery concept in three R&D projects in the Norwegian manufacturing industry.

Our qualitative research finds and explores three implementation paradoxes: 1) While the novelty of innovations partly explains why they are difficult to implement, novelty is also a motivator for firms' technology development strategies. 2) Both innovations close to core production technologies, as well as seemingly incremental innovations, can have system-wide consequences in the organizations, making them difficult to implement. 3) While implementation windows (changes to organizations and technical systems) positively affect firms’ motivation, ability, and opportunity to develop and adopt innovations, these situations introduce time constraints, putting pressure on less mature technical solutions and R&D processes. Through unpacking these seemingly opposing dynamics, we find that the same factors can both promote and inhibit adoption of technologies during different stages of innovation processes.

We discuss the managerial implications on how firms can align R&D collaborations with implementation opportunities, to enhance adoption of radical energy efficiency innovations. In conclusion, we discuss how these contributions can translate into future quantitative research.