The agency and geography of socio-technical transitions : the case of urban transport innovations

The objective of this cumulative thesis is to gain deeper insights into the interplay of agency and structure through the empirical example of emerging technologies in the context of Industry 4.0. To achieve this goal, it enriches the theoretical background from evolutionary economic geography with insights from transition studies and management studies. Empirically, the analysis focuses on novelty creation toward intelligent transport systems in an urban environment. This encompasses software solutions such as big data platforms for traffic management, the Internet of Things to create a network of various objects and subjects within the city, or the development of autonomous vehicles. This thesis formulates four overarching research purposes: (1) comprehending socio-technical transitions during Industry 4.0 from an agency-based perspective; (2) understanding how agency facilitates or hinders innovation development; (3) identifying the impact of multi-scalar and cross-sectoral relations; and (4) integrating different theoretical approaches to gain a holistic understanding of the empirical domain. The thesis adopts a qualitative research design with a philosophical grounding in critical realism, drawing on semi-structured expert interviews, literature reviews, and document and network analysis. The main contribution of this thesis rests on four distinct research papers. A systematic literature review sets the conceptual basis for the analysis, identifying future research avenues based on the existing research body. The first case study analyzes the development of an app-based solution for managing urban logistics in Barcelona from a multi-level perspective. The other two case studies investigate the evolution of advanced air mobility in Germany and the city of Hamburg. 


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