Towards an ‘alternative’ geography of innovation: Alternative milieu, socio-cognitive protection and sustainability experimentation

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This paper highlights the hitherto unrecognised role of ‘alternative’ places in protecting different forms of sustainability innovation. The paper uses the concept of an alternative milieu to illustrate how a geographically localised concentration of countercultural practices, institutions and networks can create socio-cognitive ‘niche’ protection for sustainability experiments. An alternative milieu creates protection for the emergence of novelties by (i) creating ontological and epistemological multiplicity; (ii) sustain- ing productive spatial imaginaries; and (iii) supporting ontological security. These different dimensions of protection are explored with reference to an in-depth, empirical case study of Totnes in the United Kingdom. The paper concludes with some reflections on the theoretical implications of this research for the theorising of niche protection and for the geographies of innovation more generally, along with some recommendations for future areas of enquiry.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)183-198
Number of pages16
JournalEnvironmental Innovation and Societal Transitions
Early online date17 Jan 2015
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2015


  • Alternative milieu
  • Geographies of transition
  • grassroots innovation
  • niche protection
  • socio-cognitive protection

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