Most of my research considers the politics and governance of innovation for sustainability. Generally speaking this research falls under one of three themes. These themes are:

1. Grassroots innovations for sustainable development

2. The transformation of complex sociotechnical systems and transitions to sustainability

3. Critical policy analysis for sustainability

Each theme is explained below, and where I list some relevant publications (email me for pdfs). I also try to write more accessible blogposts from time to time. These are also listed after the themes. I also list some exhibitions that have made use of this research.

My interdisciplinary work draws upon theories and methodologies from sociology, political science, innovation studies, and science and technology studies. My research is funded by a variety of academic, government and civil society organisations in the UK and overseas, and my projects invovle empirical studies in both developed and developing country contexts, covering local through national to international scales in a variety of sectors.

It is always a privilege to collaborate with many fantastic people. For example, I was a member of the STEPS Centre (Social, Technological and Environmental Pathways to Sustainability), and I regularly collaborate internationally. In keeping with the SPRU tradition of publicly engaged research, I participate in policy and civil society fora, where I hope my research serves principles of social justice and environmental responsibility at the heart of sustainable development.


1. Grassroots innovations for sustainable development

This research seeks to understand the processes by which groups in civil society create and support innovations that seek to transform or become autonomous from dominant social, economic and technological systems.

Braybrooke, K. and A. Smith (2018) Editors' Introduction: Liberatory technologies for whom? Exploring a new generation of makerspaces defined by institutional encounters, Journal of Peer Production, 12.

Smith, A. (2018) Smart cities need thick data not Big Data, The Guardian 18 April.

Dias, R. and A. Smith (2018) Making in Brazil: can we make it work for social inclusion? Journal of Peer Production 12.

Smith, A. and A. Stirling (2017) An analysis of grassroots contributions to innovation democracy, Journal of Self-governance and Management Economics, 6, 1: 64-97

Smith, A. (2017) Innovación social, democracia y makerspaces, Revista Española del Tercer Sector 36: 49-74

Smith, A. (2017) Social innovation, democracy and makerspaces, SPRU Working Paper 2017-10, University of Sussex, Brighton.

Smith, A. and A. Light (2017) Cultivating sustainable developments with makerspaces, Liinc em revista, 13, 1.

Smith, A. (2016) Alternative technology niches and sustainable development: 12 years on, Innovation: management, policy and practice 18, 4: 485-488.

Smith, A., Fressoli, M., Abrol, D., Arond, E. and A. Ely (2017) Grassroots innovation movements. London: Routledge.

Smith, A., Hargeaves, T., Hielscher, S., Martiskainen, M. and G. Seyfang (2015) Making the most of community energies: three perspectives on grassroots innovation, Environment and Planning A, 48, 2: 407-432.

Smith, A. and A. Ely (2015) Green transformations from below? The politics of grassroots innovation, in Scoones, I., Leach, M. and P. Newell (eds.) The Politics of Green Transformations, Earthscan, London, chapter 7.

Fressoli, M. et al (2014) When grassroots innovation movements encounter mainstream institutions, Innovation and Development 4, 2: 277-292

Smith, A. (2014) 'Technology networks for socially useful production' Journal of Peer Production, issue 5.

Smith, A. and M. Fressoli (2013) 'Grassroots innovations movements: contributions and challengesJournal of Cleaner Production 63: 114-124.

Smith, A. (2012) Civil society in sustainable energy transitions, in Verbong, G. and D. Loorbach (eds), Governing the energy transition: reality, illusion or necessity. Routledge, New York.

Smith, A. (2007) 'Translating sustainabilities between green niches and socio-technical regimes' Technology Analysis & Strategic Management, 19, 4: 427-450. Version en español aquí.

Seyfang, G. and A. Smith (2007) 'Grassroots innovations for sustainable development: towards a new research and policy agenda' Environmental Politics, 16, 4: 584-603


2. The transformation of complex sociotechnical systems and transitions to sustainability

Research under this theme analyses the way complex, large-scale social technological systems change over time, such as for food or energy. The aim is to understand how 'niche' spaces permit experimentation with more sustainable configurations, and assess the conditions under which these alternatives may play a role in prefiguring larger scale transformations.

Kirshner, J., Baker, L., Smith, A. and H. Bulkeley (2019) A regime in the making? Examining the geographies of solar PV electricity in Southern Africa. Geoforum (in press)

Fressoli, M. and A. Smith (2015) Impresión 3D y fabricación digital: una nueva revolución tecnológica? Integración y Comercio, 39, INTAL. 

Raven, R., Kern, F., Verhees, B. and A. Smith (2016) Niche construction and empowerment through socio-political work. A meta-analysis of six low-carbon technology cases, Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions, 18: 101-110. 

Smith, A. et al (2013) Spaces for sustainable innovation: solar photovoltaic electricity in the UKTechnological Forecasing & Social Change 81: 115-130.

Smith, A. and R. Raven (2012) What is protective space? Reconsidering niches in transitions to sustainability, Research Policy 41, 6, pp.1025-1036

Smith, A., Voβ, J.P. and J. Grin (2010) Innovation studies and sustainability transitions: the allure of the multi-level perspective, and its challenges Research Policy 39: 435-448

Smith, A., Stirling, A. and F. berkhout (2005) The governance of sustainable sociotechnical transitions, Research Policy, 2005, 34, pp.1491-1510

Smith, A. and A. Stirling (2007) Moving outside or inside? Objectification and reflexivity in the governance of socio-technical systems Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning 9, 3-4: 351-373


3. Critical policy analysis for sustainability

Here I try to provide critical insights into the realities of policy making and implementation as well as broader governance processes aimed at sustainable innovation. This work provides a helpful underpinning to policy-oriented recommendations coming from work under the other two research themes.

de Hoop, E., Smith, A., Boon, W., Macrorie, R., Marvin, S. and R. Raven (2019) Smart urbanism in Barcelona: a knowledge politics perspective, in Stissing Jense, J., Späth, P. and M. Cashmore (eds) The Politics of Urban Sustainability Tranisitions, Routledge, London.

van Zwanenberg, P.F., Fressoli, M., Arza, V., Smith, A. and A. Marin (2017) Open and collaborative developments. STEPS Centre Working Paper, Brighton.

Power, M. and Newell, P. and Baker, L. and Bulkeley, H. and Kirshner, J. and Smith, A. (2016) The political economy of energy transitions in Mozambique and South Africa : the role of the Rising Powers. Energy Research and Social Science., 17 . pp. 10-19.

Ely, A., Smith, A. et al (2014) Innovation politics post-Rio+20: hybrid pathways to sustainability? Environment and Planning C 31: 1063-1081.

Leach, M., Rockstrom, J., Raskin, P., Scoones, I., Stirling, A.C., Smith, A., Thompson, J., Millstone, E., Ely, A. Folke, C. and P. Olsson (2012) Transforming Innovation for Sustainability Ecology & Society 17 (2): 11

van Zwanenberg, P, Ely, A. and A. Smith (2011) Regulating technology: international harmonization and local realities London: Routledge

Voβ, J-P., Smith, A. And J. Grin (2009) Designing long-term policy: re-thinking transition management Policy Sciences 42, 4: 275-302

Smith, A. and F. Kern (2009) The transitions storyline in Dutch environmental policy Environmental Politics, 18, 1: 78-98

Scrase, J.I. and A. Smith (2009) The (non-)politics of managing low carbon socio-technical transitions Environmental Politics 18, 5: 707-726

Smith, A. (2009) Emerging in between: the multilevel governance of renewable energy in the English regions, Energy Policy, 35: 6266-6280


4. Blogs

I occasionally contribute blogposts to different websites. Here are links to some:

Global elites at Davos can’t just expect innovation to save our planet (posted 21 January 2020 on the Sustainability Times website)

Doing digital differently: four lessons from the grassroots (posted 21stNovember 2019 on the STEPS Centre website)

¿Necesitamos una cartografía participativa de la tecnología? (posted 4th March on the Laboratorio de Aragón [Gobierno] Abierto - LAAAB website)

Answers on a postcard: how would you do technology differently? (posted 17th December 2018 on the STEPS Centre website)

Talking about post-automation and other things (an interview with Fully Automated Luxiry Communism, posted 20 May 2018)

Smart cities in need thick data, not big data (posted 18th April 2018 on the Guardian website)

Forking the SDGs: How prototypes could transform the new global goals (posted 4th March 2018 in the STEPS Centre website)

How can open and collaborative knowledge help to build communities? (written with Patrick van Zwanenberg and posted 7th June 2017 on the STEPS Centre website)

Nuevas relaciones productivas, sociales y culturales (written with Patrick van Zwanenberg and posted 22 May 2017 on the STEPS America Latina website)

Power to the people: making and politics at the Science Museum (written with Cian O'Donovan and posted 21 December 2016 on the STEPS Centre website)

What can we learn from digital transformations? (written with Nathan Oxley and posted 7 October 2016 on the STEPS Centre website)

Can the open hardware revloution help to democratise technology? (posted 7 September 2016 on The Guardian website)

Digital fabrication - whose industrial revolution? (posted 3 August 2016 on 4S Backchannels website, written with Johan Södeberg and maxigas)

What are we doing when we do open science and inclusive innovation? (posted 12 September 2015 on STEPS Centre site)

Prototyping or debating sustainable developments in makerspaces? (posted 22 September on Sussex Energy Group website)

Why should we seek sustainable developments in makerspaces? (posted 22 September 2015 on Sussex Energy Group site)

Tooling Up: Civic visions, FabLabs, and grassroots activism (posted 4 April 2015 on the Guardian newspaper site)

Mind your (innovation) language (written with Saurabh Arora and posted 12 March on the STEPS Centre site)

'Thousands of models': Planetary boundaries, values and power (posted 16 January 2015 on STEPS Centre site)

Innovación desde abajo? (posted 28 October 2014 on the itdUPM website)

¿Revolución tecnológica? Los nuevos senderos que se abre la impresion 3D (posted 27 October 2014 al sitio de Pagina 12, al fondo de la pagina)

Considering social innovation from a social movement perspective (posted 14 October 2014 on the Transformative Social Innovation Theory (TRANSIT) website)

A day with Argentina's 'street engineers' (posted 22 August 2014 on the STEPS Centre site)

Why STEPS is creating a new research hub in Latin America (posted 18 August 2014 on the STEPS Centre site)

Makers, fixers and circular economies (posted 25 June 2014 on the Sussex Energy Group site)

Building and nurturing a community: the importance of material and emotional dimensions in grassroots innovation (posted 23 April 2014 on the Sussex ENergy Group site)

Recordando el Plan de Lucas: que nos puede decir el movimiento de producción socialmente utíl sobre la innovación inclusive hoy? (posted 14 August 2014 on the STEPS Centre website)

Inclusive innovation: learning to listen to the excluded (posted 24 March 2014 on the STEPS Centre site)

Scaling-up inclusive innovation: asking the right questions? (posted 20 March 2014 on the STEPS Centre site)

Every case is its own study? Every movement has its own goals? (posted 11 February on the STEPS Centre site)

The Lucas Plan: what can it tell us about democratising technology today? (posted January 2014 on The Guardian newspaper site)

What the new Ahmedabad Declaration means for grassroots innovation (posted January 2013 on the STEPS Centre site)

Rio plus 20 must make inclusive innovation a stepping stone to a sustainable future (posted June 2012 on The Guardian newspaper site)

Supporting grassroots innovation (posted 2nd May 2012 on the site)

Dilemmas in the search for appropriate technologies (posted February 2011 on the STEPS Centre site)



System Change Hive. Advised artist exhibition about pathways to sustainability. ONCA gallery, Brighton. November 2019.

Shared Machine Shop: Sound. Exhibit within Art+Data show at MozFest, London. With Kat Braybrooke. October 2018.

Space / Gather / Make. Exhibition at Tate Gallery, London. With Kat Braybrooke. October 2017.

Power to the People. Science Museum, London. November 2016.

A Sense of Energy - Community Energy. Senedd, Cardiff. September 2014. With Sabine Hielscher and Tom Hargreaves.