State Imaginaries Shaping UK Innovation Priorities for Bioenergy Seminar

State Imaginaries Shaping UK Innovation Priorities for Bioenergy

Thursday 17 November

A CRSPS by Dr Les Levidow, Senior Research Fellow, Open University

Venue: MB 708C, 3:30 - 5pm


Over the past decade, UK policy has given ‘sustainable bioenergy’ an increasingly important role, most recently for reducing GHG emissions, expanding renewable energy and moving towards a low-carbon economy. To achieve this much will depend on policy incentives stimulating bioenergy, according to government policy. Bioenergy has been promoted also for many other goals, e.g. energy security, environmental protection, economic advantage, waste management, etc. Technoscientific innovation is foreseen as enhancing all those benefits of bioenergy.    

How do state actors justify specific pathways of bioenergy innovation? Their promotional roles can be analysed through the analytical concept ‘imaginary’ – a strategic discourse promoting a feasible, desirable future. The talk will analyse three sociotechnical imaginaries for ‘sustainable bioenergy’ futures in the UK: relocalisation via bio-recycling, agri-diversification and oil substitution. These imaginaries are linked with specific innovation pathways – e.g. combined heat and power (CHP), anaerobic digestion, perennial energy crops and second-generation biofuels. In such ways, UK state actors promote R&D policies and mobilise resources for specific innovation priorities. 

Dr Les Levidow

Dr Les Levidow is a Senior Research Fellow at the Open University, UK, where he has been studying agri-food-energy innovation as environmental-development issues since the 1980s.  He is co-author of Governing the Transatlantic Conflict over Agricultural Biotechnology: Contending Coalitions, Trade Liberalisation and Standard Setting (Routledge, 2006) and of GM Food on Trial: Testing European Democracy (Routledge, 2010). During 2008-2010 he coordinated an FP7 project entitled ‘Cooperative Research on Environmental Problems in Europe’ (CREPE), focusing on divergent pathways towards a knowledge-based bio-economy, and was a partner in another project, ‘Facilitating Alternative Agri-Food Networks’ (FAAN).  He currently leads the above ESRC project. He is also Editor of the journal Science as Culture.