Strategic niche management (SNM) implies that new technologies are applied in so-called niches, in which they are protected against mainstream market selection. A major question currently subject to debate is through which processes niches can bring about any wider changes at the level of socio-technical regimes. This paper examines this question, using present-day developments in innovation in sanitation in Western Europe as an example. It is concluded that although SNM theorists emphasize the importance of (first- and second-order) learning, such learning processes are often hampered in practice. This may be due to the fact that existing niche-based approaches put too much emphasis on technological experimentation rather than on experimentation with forms of social organization. Therefore, attention should be redirected to sustainability concepts and guiding principles rather than technologies. As an addition to existing approaches, the authors suggest and elaborate on a new form of niche management called conceptual niche management.
- constructive technology-assessment