Egyedi, Tineke and Jaroslav Spirco: Standards in transitions: Catalyzing infrastructure change, pp. 947-960. In: Futures, Volume 43, Issue 9 (November 2011). [s.l.]: Elsevier Science, 2011. ISSN: 0016-3287.
Infrastructures are difficult to change in response to new societal demands. They are entrenched, materially and socio-institutionally, and seem to be ‘locked-in’. Scholars have addressed this problem by, for example, devising strategies for de-entrenchment, alternative path creation and transition management that focus on the process of change (emphasis on ‘how’). In this paper, we take a novel and counterintuitive approach, and focus on standards as a starting point for change (emphasis on ‘what’). We analyze in what manner standards can play a catalyzing role in infrastructure transitions and which standards characteristics facilitate in doing so.
Central to our framework are the concepts of gateway technology and compatibility. We analyze three cases, i.e., the modal shift in freight container transport; the transition from barcode to Radio Frequency Identifier (RFID); and the possibility of a Dutch energy transition from natural gas to hydrogen.
The article concludes that standards can catalyze infrastructure transitions if, first, their content well-reflects relevant stakeholder interests; and, second, if standard specifications are simple and performance-oriented. Their impact is highest in stable markets and for expanding infrastructures. Under these conditions standards can exploit the forces of entrenchment and socio-technical lock-in to bring about change.