Towards a circular infrastructure in the Netherlands - A Mission-oriented Innovation System analysis
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The Introduction discusses the formulation of the mission to transition towards a circular economy by 2050 set by the Dutch government to address pressing societal challenges. Here, the infrastructure sector is an important sector to become circular as it uses a vast amount of materials, energy, and water. This research aims to aid the transition by analyzing how governance actions target the systemic barriers in the innovation system, thereby taking into account the implementation and coordination of the mission at regional and local governmental levels. The Theory section discusses the change of innovations policy towards the formulation of missions and the importance of mapping out innovation dynamics to aid the implementation and monitoring. It argues that a new innovation system perspective is needed since existing approaches are inadequate to capture the ‘wicked’ nature of societal-challenge based missions. Therefore, the ‘Mission-oriented Innovation System’ perspective was proposed, followed by an approach consisting of five stages to analyze a MIS, including a problem-solution diagnosis, structural analysis, system function analysis, systemic barrier analysis, and reflection on governance actions. The Methodology describes the data collection methods used to analyze the case study, consisting of a policy document, event analysis, two workshops with a total of 39 participants, and 23 interviews with foursets of experts stemming from varying organizations. Through a thematic analysis, each stage of the MIS analysis was analyzed. The Results section presents the findings of each stage of the MIS analysis. To summarize, it reveals three systemic barriers by connecting weakly fulfilled system functions with underlying structural components. The first barrier concerns the lack of development, diffusion, and adoption of knowledge. The second barrier concerns the lack of market formation, preventing innovations from scaling up. The last barrier concerns the lack of guidance and coordination. The last stage indicates that planned governance actions only partially address the barriers and provides recommendations for additional ones. The Discussion advocates the MIS as a useful framework and provides insights for further development, including the importance of incorporating the effect of a multi-level governance structure and increased need for (policy) coordination on a mission's progress. The Conclusion states additional governance actions might be required to target the root causes of the systemic barriers in order to aid the transition. Where there seems to be a need for more coordination, partially because decentralized governmental organizations struggle to implement and pursue national ambitions which hampers the mission's progress.