Valorization alliances and agencies


A new global industrial revolution will unfold in the 21st century as a result of climate change and the decreasing availability of fossil fuels. At the core of this revolution is an energy-technology paradigm shift involving a move away from fossil energy technologies to regenerative ones. This paradigm shift will also directly affect one of the mainstays of modern societies: automobility and all road-based passenger and goods traffic.Three promising development paths have emerged in this field of innovation: the hydrogen combustion engine, the electric fuel-cell engine, and the electric battery-powered engine. We hypothesise that cultural configurations play a key role in the development and use of technical innovations. The “Valorization Alliances and Agencies” project aims to contribute to the identification and analysis of these cultural configurations and to specify problem-solving capacities that have received little or no attention up to now.

The three new types of engines represent radical innovations that will lead to fundamental changes in the modular area (engine) and/or at the systemic level (infrastructure). The project will study how such innovations arise or, indeed, fail to arise from various innovation-theory perspectives, and it will draw in particular on the culturalist perspective offered by Boris Groys. This permits the analysis of the three innovative engines as valorization processes, ie. the processes by which technical discoveries and inventions come to be considered valuable in society

Using a case study approach, this project examines how a valorization alliance succeeds in creating valorization agencies which facilitate, promote, and bundle technical innovation for a new type of engine. The case study is situated in a spatially and temporally defined empirical field, namely Germany in the period 1990-2010. Germany has many years of research and production tradition in all three technological fields, and is among the global leaders in research and development of alternative engine technologies, The period 1990-2010 has been chosen because it constitutes an exceptionally dynamic and contradictory development stage, in which the valorization processes and their effects feature particularly prominently.

Our initial studies indicate that valorization alliances play an important role in the valorization processes taking place in the development and establishment of alternative engines. A distinctive feature of the way in which these alliances work is the flexible combination of opening and closing processes .Furthermore, the alliances constantly create and institutionalize new valorization agencies through their varied networks, which perceptibly influence valorization processes in business, politics, science and the public realm. Our studies to date suggest that a distinctive feature of the different valorization agencies is a valorization management which has two complementary directions of effect: “revaluation-promoting“ and “devaluation-blocking”. “Revaluation-blocking” is aimed at promoting the technical innovation processes through the creation of suitable forms of coordination, financing, and popularization. “Devaluation-blocking” aims to limit the power of the opponents of innovation and their alliances.

The aim of this project is to formulate plausible and robust hypotheses on the emergence and functioning of valorization alliances and valorization agencies that can also be tested empirically in other technical and social innovation fields.