Strategic Niche Management and Transition Management: different but complementary approaches

Derk Loorbach, R (Ronald) van Raak

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperAcademic


This discussion paper sets out to compare two different, yet related, approaches to achieve sustainable development and (technological) innovation. Strategic Niche Management (SNM) (Kemp, Schot et al. 1998; Weber 1999) emerged as a novel concept by the end of the 1990’s and is presented as a research model and policy tool to manage technological innovation within so-called niches. SNM is based on the multi-level conceptualization of socio-technical regimes, embedded in a slowly changing landscape and influenced by emerging niches. Transition management (TM) (Rotmans, Kemp et al. 2000; Rotmans, Kemp et al. 2001; Rotmans 2003; Loorbach and Rotmans 2006) was for the first time defined in 2000 as a policy or governance approach and later developed into a policy model to deal with long-term desired change and sustainable development. TM is based on the analytical concept of transitions as structural changes in complex (societal) systems and has been developed into an operational policy-approach. Both concepts emerged roughly during the same period, were partly developed by the same or acquainted scholars (especially Kemp has contributed significantly to both theories) and originated both in the Netherlands. From a distance, both approaches seem to be highly similar in their origin as well as their descriptive or analytical basis. However, at closer glance there are a number of major differences between the two approaches. These differences are related to their historical evolution and scientific grounding, to their empirical basis and focus and to their operational approach. We will first shortly both theories at their current level of development. Then we will discuss their mutual historical evolution from which the differences in scientific background and basis become clear. We then compare SNM and TM in their differences in scope, focus and operational aspects. After a discussion of the differences we will argue that these stem from a fundamentally different scientific basis and research approach, but that their complementary elements and similar ambitions are basis for mutual reinforcement rather than exclusion.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jul 2006
EventTU/e EUR discussion meeting - Rotterdam
Duration: 11 Jul 2006 → …


ConferenceTU/e EUR discussion meeting
Period11/07/06 → …

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