|Abstract: ||Much public and private effort is being directed towards the development of more sustainable
chemical feedstocks, yet the associated complexities of technological transitions and the
technical, institutional and policy-related challenges they raise are often not wholly
recognised. This thesis aims to develop an understanding of the key dynamics of
technological change in the chemical industry, with respect to changes in feedstocks and the
influence of the changing energy (and climate policy) landscape. It builds on, and contributes
to, the ‘innovations’ literature that seeks to translate empirical research on past technological
transitions into practical guidance for policy-makers. In particular, this thesis explores the
relevance of the close relationship – or ‘co-evolution’ – between chemicals and liquid fuels
production, which has not been analysed elsewhere.
Transitions between technological systems involve evolutionary processes. The past both
shapes the current system and influences future options and pathways. This thesis
investigates the historical transition from coal-based to petrochemical feedstocks in the UK
(1921-1967), applying a system dynamics approach to extract and elucidate the key
interrelationships between technologies, policy and society. The findings are then used to
inform a series of interviews with key organisations to gain insights into expectations for
renewable raw materials (RRM) in the UK. The results provide a strong indication of the
decision-making procedures of actors, and tensions between different industrial activities.
They thus provide an empirical basis for developing foresight scenarios that might help
inform the current debate about technological transitions, especially those to RRM.
This thesis shows that the technological trajectory of the organic chemical industry has for
many decades been influenced heavily by governmental attempts to steer technological
change towards a changing set of policy priorities. This process has been accompanied by
attempts of industrialists to steer policy priorities towards preferred technological trajectories.
Parallels can be drawn with the current attempts of policymakers to achieve greater societal
sustainability. Results indicate that the innovation system around RRM is already
experiencing the socio-technical dynamics of regime disruption and competing designs.|