The doctoral dissertations of the former Helsinki University of Technology (TKK) and Aalto University Schools of Technology (CHEM, ELEC, ENG, SCI) published in electronic format are available in the electronic publications archive of Aalto University - Aaltodoc.

Escaping Path Dependence – Essays on Foresight and Environmental Management

Totti Könnölä

Dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Science in Technology to be presented with due permission of the Department of Engineering Physics and Mathematics for public examination and debate in Auditorium E at Helsinki University of Technology (Espoo, Finland) on the 26th of May, 2006, at 12 o'clock noon.

Overview in PDF format (ISBN 951-22-8209-7)   [228 KB]
Dissertation is also available in print (ISBN 951-22-8207-0)


The dissertation examines linkages between foresight, innovation and environmental management and policy to escape undesirable path dependencies at the different levels of innovation systems, especially with the means of foresight. The dissertation is characterized as action research that applies literature reviews, semi-structured interviews, direct observations, Internet-based group support systems, decision analysis, trend analysis and computer assisted workshops within case studies and empirically grounded theory-building.

The dissertation consists of six articles and the summary. The first article deals with responsiveness in the management of foresight activities. The second article studies possible ways to escape techno-institutional path dependencies by combining methods used in foresight activities and drafting environmental voluntary agreements. The third article applies this approach to the analysis of a hydrogen energy foresight. The fourth article examines how environmental management systems may strengthen path dependencies. The fifth article develops and applies a new foresight method RPM Screening, which is also applied in the sixth article in connection with a European coordination tool.

The implications of the mechanisms of path dependence on foresight objectives are identified as follows: (i) improved systems understanding calls for attention to continuous and discontinuous changes, which can be facilitated by diversity considerations, (ii) enhanced networking requires not only strengthening existing networks but also restructuring or even destruction of possible lock-in conditions by a redefinition of stakeholder roles and (iii) strengthened innovation activities necessitate fostering prospective innovation ideas, rivaling coalitions and the development of new technological and institutional arrangements. The results of this dissertation suggest extending the locus of foresight processes closer to decision-making and conducting them in connection with other coordination-oriented policy tools to address also institutional arrangements for discontinuous systemic changes. Whereas the dissertation identifies and responds to these challenges by developing responsive and modular foresight methods, further policy experimentation is recommended to support policy learning and the collection of further evidence for the findings.

This thesis consists of an overview and of the following 6 publications:

  1. Salo, A., Könnölä, T., and Hjelt, M., (2004) Responsiveness in Foresight Management: Reflections from the Finnish Food and Drink Industry, International Journal of Foresight and Innovation Policy 1 (1-2), 70-88. © 2004 Inderscience Enterprises. By permission.
  2. Könnölä, T., Unruh, G. C., and Carrillo-Hermosilla, J., (2006) Prospective Voluntary Agreements for Escaping Techno-Institutional Lock-in, Ecological Economics 57, 239-252. © 2006 Elsevier Science. By permission.
  3. Könnölä, T., Unruh, G. C., and Carrillo-Hermosilla, J., Toward Prospective Voluntary Agreements: Reflections from a Hydrogen Foresight Project, Journal of Cleaner Production, in press. © 2006 Elsevier Science. By permission.
  4. Könnölä, T. and Unruh, G. C., Really Changing the Course: the Limitations of Environmental Management Systems for Innovation, Business Strategy and the Environment, in press. © 2006 John Wiley & Sons. By permission.
  5. Könnölä, T., Brummer, V., and Salo, A., (2006) Diversity in Foresight: Insights from the Fostering of Innovation Ideas, Helsinki University of Technology, Systems Analysis Laboratory, Research Report E19. © 2006 by authors.
  6. Könnölä, T., Salo, A., and Brummer, V., Foresight for European Coordination: Developing National Priorities for the Forest-Based Sector Technology Platform, International Journal of Technology Management, special issue on technology foresight, in press. © 2006 by authors and © 2006 Inderscience Enterprises. By permission.

Keywords: foresight, environmental management, group decision-making, innovation policy, path dependence

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© 2006 Helsinki University of Technology

Last update 2011-05-26