Policymakers’ Views on Sustainable End-user Innovation: Implications for Sustainable Innovation

Kristian Roed Nielsen*

*Corresponding author for this work

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This paper seeks to ascertain why the role of end-user (consumer) within sustainable innovation remains largely overlooked by policymakers in spite of their significant potential in driving socio-technical transitions. Drawing on 25 in-depth interviews with policymakers, the paper finds that conceptual vagueness and a lack of clear definitions within the field have led to a myriad of terms being used to refer to the engagement of end-users in the sustainable innovation process. This lack of clarity has generated a confused policy narrative when discussing the role of end-user in sustainable innovation, making it difficult for insights to be shared with and drawn from others and resulting in a fragmented policy toolset. In addition to this ambiguity, the interviews revealed that policymakers often take a traditional view of innovation and its main actors, wherein end-users are seen as playing the role of ‘the informed consumer’ who drives the demand side but does not contribute to supply. Thus, despite significant evidence to the contrary, policymakers remain apprehensive about the potential of end-users driving sustainable innovation. The paper concludes that existing policy concerns are less about whether end-users innovate or not than whether this form of innovation can actually translate into public goods. The key takeaway for proponents of sustainable end-user innovation is that, from a policy perspective, the larger impact and business case has yet to be made.
Original languageEnglish
Article number120030
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - May 2020

Bibliographical note

Published online: 9. January 2020


  • Policy
  • Sustainable innovation
  • User innovation
  • Open innovation
  • End-users
  • Policymakers

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