Governing the mission-oriented transition towards a circular infrastructure sector: From ideals to new socio-technical systems

Research output: ThesisPhD Thesis - Research UT, graduation UT

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Circularity has become a central approach to making the infrastructure sector more future proof. As such, circularity is positioned as a transformative mission. However, the socio-technical transition required to achieve this mission is steeped in complexity, uncertainty, and contestation, making its governance a tricky exercise. This PhD dissertation delves into the systemic barriers to the mission-oriented transition and offers various ways to deal with those on a sectoral, organizational, and inter-organizational level. By doing so, this dissertation aims to equip scholars and practitioners with the tools to effectively steer and support the transition towards a circular infrastructure sector. The first study identifies three causal cycles that act as systemic barriers to the transition: one regarding the contestation of the circularity concept, one regarding learning and upscaling, and a final cycle on rigid procurement approaches that hamper radical innovations. The first cycle, regarding the contestation of circularity, is examined in more detail in the second study as it forms the most deeply-rooted barrier. The third study presents a governance approach to steer mission-oriented transitions, acknowledging their inherently complex, uncertain, and contested nature. How organizations deal with the external pressures caused by the circularity mission is investigated in the fourth study within the Dutch infrastructure system. Finally, the fifth study explores how the innovation ecosystem approach can help the circularity transition by introducing long-term oriented forms of collaboration to support innovation beyond single infrastructure projects. The dissertation concludes with a discussion of the implications for both practice and theory, extending beyond the individual studies to offer actionable perspectives for various domains and actor types in academia and practice.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Twente
  • Volker, Leentje, Supervisor
  • Visscher, Klaasjan, Supervisor
Thesis sponsors
Award date15 May 2024
Place of PublicationEnschede
Print ISBNs978-90-365-6024-5
Electronic ISBNs978-90-365-6025-2
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2024


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