The emergence of a global innovation system – A case study from the urban water sector

Jonas Heiberg, Bernhard Truffer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Innovation studies is increasingly acknowledging the multi-scalar nature of the systemic contexts, in which innovations are being developed and deployed. This paper builds on and further develops a recently proposed framework for studying global innovation systems (GIS). It aims at explaining the emergence of a GIS by outlining the specific local resource-related conditions that lead to the creation of structural couplings, i.e. actors, networks and institutions that allow for multi-scalar resource flows. Deploying a qualitative case study, the paper investigates the interrelated developments of eight demonstration sites of innovative wastewater treatment technology in North-Western Europe. It shows how resource-related deficits lead actors to draw on resources generated outside of their local context. The paper contributes to the literature on the Geography of Transitions by highlighting the importance of resource complementarities among different local contexts, as well as the crucial role of trans-local systemic intermediaries in shaping an emergent GIS.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)270-288
Number of pages19
JournalEnvironmental Innovation and Societal Transitions
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022


  • Geography of transitions
  • Global innovation systems (GIS)
  • Modular water technologies
  • Multi-scalar resource flows
  • Systemic intermediaries


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