Research

Johan’s current research focuses on the conceptualization and historical interpretation of what he calls the ‘Second Big Transition’. Big Transitions refer to long term change processes which transform the economy and society. The First Transition started in 1750 and resulted in the welfare state. The Second Big Transition started in the 1970s and will transform capitalism and modernity as we know it today. Building upon the insights of Chris Freeman and Carlota Perez, the aim is to develop a new version of the Multi-level Perspective (MLP) of Sustainability Transitions that captures the importance of the links between various niches and regimes and endogenizes changes at the socio-technical landscape. He will also use this new theory to generate new insights for the governance of new transition pathways.

In this research, Johan will build upon his proven ability to draw insights from the history of technology, evolutionary economics, as well as science and technology studies. In the past, Johan was instrumental in developing and extending the niche theory of radical change into the influential MLP on sustainability transitions, working with Arie Rip, Frank Geels and others. He was also key in establishing a new framework for research and policy around sustainable technologies, called Strategic Niche Management, building on his earlier influential work on the Constructive Technology Assessment framework. Finally Johan has developed a range of new concepts for the contextual history of technology, such as the mediation junction, the innovation junction, technocratic internationalism, and the hidden integration and fragmentation of Europe (for all of these concepts, please see the list of key publications below).

Johan’s work has greatly benefited from an emphasis on creative collaborations across borders and disciplines which open up innovative new research agendas. One of his unique qualities is his ability to create and pioneer large scale collaborations, in which many (up to 100 or more) scholars and practitioners from business, government and societal groups work productively together. Initiatives such as the Greening of Industry Network and the influential Dutch Knowledge Network on System Innovations and Transitions have all successfully enabled the development of innovative new insights and transformative practices. More recently, the Tensions of Europe collaboration of up to 300 scholars resulted in the dynamic ‘Inventing Europe’ digital history project, delivered in partnership with ten cultural heritage institutions and museums. This transnational collaboration also led to a unique book series, called ‘Making Europe’, which provides new interpretations of European History through the lens of technology. 

Several collaborations led to influential and seminal book series such as:

Key publications