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A stakeholder-grounded evaluation of the seven functions model of technological innovation systems theory in UK offshore wind and marine renewables.

Aldersey-Williams, John


John Aldersey-Williams


Ian Broadbent


Technological innovation systems theory (TIS) provides a useful framework within which to consider energy transitions. The "seven functions" framework allows researchers to examine the progress of emergence of new technologies, but has not hitherto been tested for completeness and validity with stakeholders in an energy transition. The emergence of offshore wind over the last twenty years in the UK has been a significant part of the UK's energy decarbonisation transition and has provided the industrial roots for this research. The research has critically evaluated the "seven functions" model of TIS with stakeholders in the offshore renewable energy sector in the UK, with the aim of assessing whether each of the seven functions is necessary and whether together they are sufficient to explain the development of a TIS. This thesis has reviewed the literature to find that no canonical inventory of seven functions exists and it therefore develops one. Using interviews with more than thirty influential participants in the offshore renewables sector - including project and technology developers, policy makers, supply chain, support organisations and other stakeholders - the thesis examines whether the seven functions provide a "necessary and sufficient" framework, to characterise the emergence of offshore wind and marine renewables (tidal stream and wave) in the UK since 2000. The research supports the seven existing functions and finds evidence for a new function, which is defined as "relative value potential" (RVP). RVP considers the potential or actual value offered by an emergent technology, to consider whether it can demonstrate a roadmap to achieving an unsupported viability. TIS is far from unique in theories for understanding socio-technical transitions. This thesis also finds that the proposed new function offers some scope for a reconciliation of TIS and another leading theory in this space – Multi-Level Perspective. The thesis concludes by eliciting learnings from the emergence of offshore wind for the benefit of tidal stream and wave energy developers.


ALDERSEY-WILLIAMS, J. 2020. A stakeholder-grounded evaluation of the seven functions model of technological innovation systems theory in UK offshore wind and marine renewables. Robert Gordon University [online], PhD thesis. Available from:

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Jul 16, 2020
Publicly Available Date Jul 16, 2020
Keywords Energy transition; Offshore wind energy; Renewable energy; United Kingdom
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ALDERSEY-WILLIAMS 2020 A stakeholder-grounded evaluation (REDACTED) (7.8 Mb)

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Copyright Statement
Copyright: the author and Robert Gordon University. Sections of this thesis have been redacted for copyright reasons. See coversheet for details.

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