Impact of climate discourse on national scientific networks in energy technologies: the case of Estonian science and industry linkages

Main Article Content

Kaija Valdmaa Piret Tõnurist Ringa Raudla


This article examines how the global climate change discourse influences the implementation of national science policy in the area of energy technology, with a focus on industry and science collaborations and networks. We develop a set of theoretical propositions about how the issues in the global discourse are likely to influence research agendas and networks, the nature of industry-science linkages and the direction of innovation. The plausibility of these propositions is examined, using Estonia as a case study. We find that the global climate discourse has indeed led to the diversification of research agendas and networks, but the shifts in research strategies often tend to be rhetorical and opportunistic. The ambiguity of the global climate change discourse has also facilitated incremental innovation towards energy efficiency and the potentially sub-optimal lock-in of technologies. In sum, the Estonian case illustrates how the introduction of policy narratives from the global climate change discourse to the national level can shape the actual policy practices and also networks of actors in a complex and non-linear fashion, with unintended effects.

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Author Biographies

Kaija Valdmaa, Tallinn University of Technology

Kaija Valdmaa is the project manager of the Estfeed energy data exchange platform in Elering AS, the Estonian electricity and gas transmission system operator, and a doctoral candidate at Ragnar Nurkse Department of Innovation and Governance, Tallinn University of Technology, Estonia. Her main research interests are in the area of sustainability transitions and system governance with the focus on public policy instruments, science, technology and innovation policy and multi-level governance in small countries looking at clean, green and energy technologies, industry and science collaboration, research funding, taxation and economic steering policies. Previously she has worked with greentech start-ups and growth companies on business and export development issues while managing the greentech sectors in Tallinn Science Park Tehnopol and PAKRi Science and Industrial Park. She is also Co-Founder and Advisor in Cleantech ForEST a cleantech network organisation that accelerates Estonian green innovation and develops a supporting ecosystem.

Piret Tõnurist, Ragnar Nurkse Department of Innovation and Governance, Tallinn University of Technology

Piret Tõnurist is the roject manager and leads the work on systems thinking, innovation measurement and anticipatory innovation governance at the Observatory of Public Sector Innovation (OPSI). She coordinates OPSI’s work on transformative innovations, innovation theory development and works directly with OECD member countries on their complex problems.  Piret holds a research fellowship at the Ragnar Nurkse Department of Innovation and Governance, TalTech and she conducts research on a variety of topics such as innovation labs, co-production, digitalisation, machine-to-machine coordination and innovation policy management. She has previously advised the Parliament of Estonia and worked as a performance auditor for the State Audit Office in the field of innovation and entrepreneurial policy. She is an active proponent of purpose-driven change in the public sector and has collaborated with different governments, state-owned enterprises and innovation labs across the world.  Piret holds a PhD and MA from TalTech in technology governance and MSc from KU Leuven in policy evaluation.

Ringa Raudla, Ragnar Nurkse Department of Innovation and Governance, Tallinn University of Technology

Ringa Raudla is Professor of Fiscal Governance, Ragnar Nurkse Department of Innovation and Governance, Tallinn University of Technology, Estonia. Her main research interests are fiscal policy, public budgeting, public administration reform, and institutional economics. Her recent publications include articles in Electoral Studies, Public Choice, Public Administration Review, Governance, Public Administration, Policy Studies Journal, the American Review of Public Administration, Journal of Public Policy, Public Money & Management, International Review of Administrative Sciences, and Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis. She has also worked as a consultant for various governmental organizations, including the Ministry of Finance and the National Audit Office in Estonia, and international organizations, including the World Bank. Ringa Raudla received the Estonian national research award in social sciences in 2018. She is an editorial board member of seven different journals in the fields of public administration, public management, governance and economics.

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