BACKGROUND Research into Innovation and Sustainable Development
Recent social science research into innovation and sustainable development can be classified into two groups: cleaner technology and systems innovation (Smith, 2006). The latter is important since cleaner technologies are often not adopted without some transformation of socio-technical systems (ex. technology, policy, users, industry structure, markets, culture, infrastructure, science) (Weber et al., 1999). Researchers of systems innovation have been developing many theories and tools to promote the transitions required to make it possible to move innovations from laboratories to market.
One prominent school of thought in recent systems innovation debates is called Strategic Niche Management (SNM). Here niche is used to describe an emerging and innovative technology or system, and is vulnerable at the infancy. Studying the history of technology innovations, SNM scholars have analyzed processes to try to determine what is the best for successful development of niche. They have identified some strategic factors; broad and deep social networks, robust expectation shared between actors of a niche, and learning processes at multiple stages where the actors related to the niche learn about the design, user needs, cultural and political acceptability, and other aspects of the niche (Schot & Rip, 1996, Hoogma et al., 2002).
SNM researchers have taken a lot of case studies of the transition mechanism of various domains; products such as organic food, ecoefficient house etc., or public services such as biogas energy plant, waste water plants and so on (e. g. Smith, 2006; Raven & Geel, 2010; Dries et al., 2007). There are a few studies about aviation (Haan & Mulder, 2002; Kivits et al., 2010). More studies are expected to accelerate both the SNM research and the aviation sustainability, because systems innovation in the aviation sector is very difficult due to the long product lifecycle and huge sunk costs (Kivits et al., 2010). Furthermore, the development requires a lot of investment and government supports, which causes WTO subsidies disputes. How the aviation sector will bring niches up is very interesting to the researchers of SNM.