Harald Rohracher, Philipp Späth
University of Klagenfurt, University of Freiburg


Innovation policies in the European Union increasingly address so-called ‘grand challenges’ such as climate change, resource depletion or aging societies. Such transformations go far beyond conventional product or process innovations and require a restructuring of broad socio-technical regimes, e.g. the built environment, systems of mobility, the energy system or the way we organize processes of production and consumption.
The distributed nature and specific socio-technical dynamics of large-scale transition processes towards greater sustainability makes cities an important arena of infrastructure transformation and a crucial nexus between different levels of governance and strands of socio-political discourse. The article is based on an analysis of the cases of Graz and Freiburg which since at least two decades have been regarded as ‘eco-cities’ and particularly advanced in their environmental policies and actions. It will be investigated to which extent these cities were indeed capable of system innovations and fundamental shifts towards the aim of a “sustainable city“ and ll then some conclusions will be drawn about the ‘room for manoeuvring’ of cities within broader sustainability transitions.

sustainability transitions, eco-cities, infrastructures, urban policy



SAJ Vol. 4, 2012, No. 1