Transition research offers a formidable platform for co-creation

Transition research can be used as a conceptual basis for working on pathways of change with diverse groups of people. The Smart Energy Transition project and Sitra implemented its own transition arena on energy during 2017. Transition research was also discussed in the Smart Energy Transition research seminar on June 7, 2018, with keynote speaker Dr. Jochen Markard. Creating a transition pathway was also demonstrated in the Strategic Research Council’s annual event in February 2018.

The Smart Energy Transition project and the subject of Organization & Management at Aalto University arranged the Transition Research Seminar. The event was about the ongoing energy transition and how organizations shape it, learning from experimentation in smart energy in Finland, discussing also the capabilities of multinational energy utilities.

Sustainability transitions are a rapidly developing, solution-oriented field of research. While there is an increasing interest in transition studies, it is essential to also look into the contribution of organizations and businesses. Promising research is a the intersection of management and sustainability transition studies and this has also important implications for firms trying to benefit from the trend towards clean technologies – in energy, in transportation, in food and related sectors”, highlights Jochen Markard, senior researcher at the Group for Sustainability and Technology at ETH Zurich, Switzerland.

An essense of studies on sustainability transitions is that these are not just about innovative technologies but also about broader societal, political and organizational changes, i.e. through the development of new business models (e.g. services), the build-up of complementary infrastructures (e.g. for vehicle charging), supportive policies and also changes in lifestyles (e.g. sharing, traveling less).

The basis of transition research was turned into a practical application by the Aalto University School of Arts & School of Business and Sitra, by arranging an almost year long transition arena on energy during 2017. The results of the arena were widely reported in the media and have resulted in various new plans and actions in policy-making, and for the energy industry in general.

A demonstration on change pathways was presented in Rakkaudesta tieteeseen (‘Love for Science‘) event on Valentine’s Day, February 14. The Strategic Research Council’s annual event aims to bring together and showcase the multidisciplinary projects under its diverse umbrella. In 2018, the event was held at the Finlandia Hall in Helsinki, where Smart Energy Transition participated with a significant presence. The project also launched its New Energy Businesses website ( at the event, which participants could try out on laptops.

The project also arranged for a co-creational activity based on the transition arena, in which the participants  from various fields could participate in creating a pathway to enhance the use of electrical cars from now until 2030, and imagine their methods of transportation in the future. The activity was facilitated by the project staff and researchers.

The discussion around the activity was lively and the participants showed interest in the board which consisted of colorful pathway steps. The magnetic hexagonal pieces could be moved around and put in specific points of the equally magnetic board. In between the ‘step’ pieces, there were pieces shaped as arrows, representing causal effects as well as the duration of time. The timeframe of the pathway was indicated in the top of the board, stretching from the current day to year 2030.

The participants from various backgrounds and fields of research were presented an example headline ‘600 000 electrical cars in 2030‘, to which they could respond to and add to the board the steps that they felt would enhance this goal or affect smart transportation in general. Steps proposed were, for instance (a few visual examples here):

  • Increased sharing services, e.g. MaaS, that have a reasonable price – example: BMW has already made efforts on this
  • Taxi services – example: Whim app, which makes it possible to have short trips in a less amount of money
  • Taking examples to Finland from international services, such as the BlaBlaBla taxi service in France
  • Ensuring charging points for electrical vehicles also in rural areas
  • Enhancing bicycling to off-city areas, for instance to summer cottages
  • The role of electrical vehicles other than passenger cars and how they affect the diverse transportation possibilities
  • Common protocols on how to do business in MaaS-related services, in terms of e.g. crypto currency and blockchain technologies

The most significant common denominator for the participants was their interest in moving by bicycle or public transportation. However, when thinking of long-distance travels, especially the trip to the summer cottage and back with a large quantity of items with you, an electrical car was seen as an intriguing possibility. What raised concerns, though, was the lack of charging outlets, especially in rural areas. All in all, the participants were interested in developing services for diverse transportation methods.

This showcasing of the transition arena tool was one example of how it can be utilized. The Smart Energy Transition and Sitra’s transition arena on energy has since inspired the planning of several upcoming transition arena projects across diverse areas in Finland.

For more information on transition research and transition arenas, contact us personally or through social media:,


Allu Pyhälammi
Project Coordinator
Smart Energy Transition
Aalto University

Pictures: CC BY-NC-ND Smart Energy Transition 2018