An approach for developing exnovation policy for sustainability missions - Breaking away from path-dependencies in the Dutch agri-food sector
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To tackle complex societal challenges such as sustainability transitions policy makers put attention to mission approaches. Thereby, the typical focus on innovation policy does not suffice in tackling sustainability transitions. Exnovation policy is seen as an essential addition to accelerate transition processes and ensure sustainability missions are timely realized. Exnovation entails the deliberate exit from non-sustainable institutions, (infra)structures, technologies, products and practices (Heyen et al., 2017). However, there is a lack in a practical approach that can guide policy makers in developing exnovation policy for accomplishing sustainability missions. This research aimed to address this gap by developing a practical stepwise approach for exnovation policy making to support sustainability missions and by empirically grounding it in policy for the mission of sustainable soil management in 2030 in the Dutch agricultural sector. In doing so, this research linked literature on path-dependency and literature on exnovation. To design exnovation policy effectively it is required to understand 1) how path-dependencies hamper transition processes and 2) what exnovation instruments could be used to break away from different types of path-dependencies and as such support sustainability missions. This research used qualitative data retrieved through desk research, interviews and exploratory workshops. Results show that the different types of identified path-dependencies regarding soil management in Dutch agriculture were material, cognitive, financial, and regulative path-dependency. These could be targeted and broken away from using different types of exnovation instruments, namely, economic, regulatory, informational, and socioeconomic instruments. Overall, findings show that exnovation policy to support sustainability missions could be effectively designed following our stepwise approach consisting of five consecutive steps. This research contributed to the theoretical field of missions and sustainability transitions by demonstrating the value of taking path-dependencies as an analytical lens and starting point for developing exnovation policy. Further, the practical stepwise approach provided fruitful insights into policy design for transitions and sustainability missions.