Social Innovation in Energy Transitions

2019 - 2022

The SONNET project's aim is to create an inter- and trans-disciplinary understanding of the diversity and processes of social innovations in the energy sector (SIE). It will assess the success, contributions and future potential of SIE towards sustainable energy transitions in Europe. To achieve this, the project will investigate how, to what extent and under which enabling conditions diverse types of SIE may result in new breakthroughs or successfully help to overcome transition barriers. SONNET’s empirical research is informed by a novel conceptual framework combining insights from sustainability transitions, energy studies and social innovation literature. It bridges qualitative and quantitative methodological approaches in an innovative multi-method research design.

Across 30 qualitative in-depth case studies situated in six European countries, the SONNET project will investigate the diversity, processes, success and contributions of SIE. Given its focus on urban areas as major hubs for SIE, project partners will conduct six trans-disciplinary SIE city labs to experiment with new forms of SIE and learn about how multiple actors can harness the potential of SIE. In addition, based on three large-scale representative citizen surveys, the project will assess the future potential of SIE and derive implications for reconfiguring existing and developing new business models.

Finally, SONNET will synthesise its findings in an integrated knowledge framework for a socio-economic, socio-cultural and socio-political understanding of enabling and impeding conditions for SIE and SIE contributions when working towards accelerating sustainable energy transitions in Europe. Through a cutting edge co-creation, dissemination and exploitation strategy, the project will ensure that its practical recommendations, tools and capacity building activities have a maximum impact on key stakeholders such as citizens, SIE actors, policy makers and businesses.

This project is funded by the EU Horizon 2020 reasearch and innovatio programme under Grant Agreement N°837498.