Towards sustainable energy: Are there lessons from the history of the early factory system?
Bellaby, P., Flynn, R. and Ricci, M. (2010) Towards sustainable energy: Are there lessons from the history of the early factory system? Innovation: The European Journal of Social Science Research, 23 (4). pp. 333-348. ISSN 1351-1610
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Publisher's URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13511610.2010.545276
Development of sustainable energy has been slow. We compare it with a historical example of rapid innovation - the first factory system. The first factory system in the English Derwent Valley mills in the eighteenth century was based not on new technology like the steam engine, but on the familiar water mill. The locale was less prosperous than others in its agriculture and cottage textile industry, far from the English trade hub London and difficult to access. The drivers were “bottom-up”. Among the lessons drawn for sustainable energy are that bottom-up innovation, using whichever technology is practical in the context and local skills and know-how, might be a viable alternative to the current attempt at top-down innovation. The locales likely to succeed would have human resources, rather than significant finance capital, but a growing market for their products, the development of which is underpinned by institutions of the state and international cooperation.