SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit

Capturing value in smart energy

Renewable energy production and new storage technologies are potentially disruptive technologies because they change the way we produce energy, but also the way we use energy, do business with it and innovate. Smart energy solutions can cascade into new business ecosystems, leading to radical shifts in the roles of producers, service providers and consumers, offering great opportunities for growth.

The Finnish government has defined cleantech, digitalization and bioeconomy as the new spearheads of growth. These sectors are significantly impacted upon by breakthroughs in the development of smart energy. However, despite Finland’s past as a global innovation leader, the country has not been able to fully capitalize on emerging disruptive technologies. 

The Smart Energy Transition consortium (SET) will analyse the ongoing global energy transition and how it impacts on Finnish society, in particular the potential benefits for cleantech, digitalization and bioeconomy. Given the particular characteristics of the Finnish economy, SET will examine where and how Finland can capture value in smart energy.

The objectives of the Smart Energy Transition (SET) project are to:

1. Analyse the technological disruption underlying the smart energy transition and its impacts on society and its growth spearheads.

2. Explore how different sectors can benefit from the transition.

3. Co-create solutions.

Overall, SET aims to increase the dynamic resilience and change capacity for the smart energy transition in Finland.

SPRU’s role is to focuses on the analysis of institutions and industrial policy in smart energy disruption. The project team will carry out a cross-country comparison of UK, Germany and Denmark to understand the relevance of institutions in technology disruption - focusing on cases of on and off shore wind and building energy use. A conceptual framework will be created and applied to analyse Finnish institutions and industrial policy from the perspective of technology disruption.


Based on the hypothesis that both science-based analysis and practical support are needed, the SET project utilizes methods that build on a multidisciplinary combination of case study research, action research, qualitative comparative analysis, economic analyses of technologies and markets, and futures studies. Novel methods of co-creation and co-design will be used, including the first application of the transition arena approach in Finland.

From a holistic and long-term real-time study of how a small European country manages a significant transition, SET extends current systems thinking on innovation and technological change and builds competencies for a successful and sustainable transition.

Impact and outreach

SET is focusedon engaging with a range of stakeholders from. This will be carried out through panel discussions, as well as having through the non-academic partner organizations. The project will support national and regional development of business and policy and institutions. SET will engage with businesses, policy-makers and citizens/consumers to explore, apply and develop tools for a smart energy transition in Finland. Working with Finpro, Motiva, City of Lappeenranta, and Heureka will establish permanent platforms and networks engaged and skilled in the area of energy transition to ensure the implementation and durability of the project. Some of the activities will include, for example, organizing an exhibition with the Finnish Science Centre Heureka and developing experimentation and piloting activities with the government-affiliated company Motiva which will be focused on promoting efficient and sustainable use of energy and materials.

Partners and Links

SPRU staff:

Paula Kivimaa, Karoline Rogge, Philip Johnstone, Andrew Stirling, Johan Schot


  • Aalto University, School of Business and School of Arts, Design and Architecture
  • Finnish Environment Institute SYKE
  • Lappeenranta University of Technology
  • Consumer Society Research Centre at the University of Helsinki
  • VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland
  • Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU), University of Sussex
  • VATT Institute for Economic Research
  • Motiva
  • Finpro
  • City of Lappeenranta
  • Heureka

Project website: Smart Energy Transition

Project news: Finnish energy sector requires renovation - final report published 28 November 2017 (in Finnish).