A multi-level analysis of sustainable mobility transitions: Niche development in the UK and Sweden

Björn Nykvist, Lorraine Whitmarsh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

186 Citations (SciVal)


A wide range of intractable problems such as polluting emissions, noise, accidents, resource depletion, and inaccessibility of amenities are associated with the current transport regime. Given the slow movement towards a more sustainable mobility system, more radical, systemic innovation - a 'transition' - is required. Broadly speaking, this may be achieved via three routes: technological change, modal shift, and reduced travel demand. Drawing on concepts from the transitions literature (e.g., [Geels, F.W.: Technological Transitions and System Innovations: A Co-evolutionary and Socio-Technical Analysis, Edward Elgar, Cheltenham, 2005.]), we conceptualise each of these routes as a bundle of niche activities within an Area of Innovation, deviating to differing degrees from the current mobility 'regime'. We present empirical evidence and indications of ongoing development of niches in these three areas within the UK and Sweden, and explore processes of co-evolution, divergence and tension within and between niches. Findings indicate recent market penetration of novel transport technologies, more advanced than modal shift or demand management activities; however, different transport technologies are more successful in each country. We also identify examples of a close relationship between development of radical vehicle/fuel technologies and provision of mobility services; and information technology as a driver in all three areas of innovation. We conclude that future innovation in transport depends on diversity, hybridisation, and co-evolution of niches. Finally, policy implications are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1373-1387
Number of pages15
JournalTechnological Forecasting and Social Change
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2008


  • Innovation
  • Niche Development
  • Regime Change
  • Sustainable Mobility
  • Transition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Applied Psychology
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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