Policy mixes for business model innovation: The case of off-grid energy for sustainable development in sub-Saharan Africa

Aug 1, 2023

Business model innovation (BMI) is often complementary to technological innovation and offers novel and sustainable value creation opportunities. Enabling BMI through policy is difficult, however, and not yet well understood in practice or theory. We build on the quickly evolving literature on policy mixes to develop a theoretical model which explains how policy strategies and instruments shape the conditions for BMI. We derive the model inductively by studying the emergence of an off-grid renewable energy BMI in sub-Saharan Africa which proposes to actively create sustainable development in rural areas as opposed to merely increase energy access, drawing from 61 interviews with companies and industry experts as well as policy documents across six African countries. Our model has three core theoretical implications. First, focusing on policy strategies, policy instruments and their respective interactions, we uncover a set of mechanisms that explain how policy mix elements combine to create conducive conditions for BMI. Second, we shed light on the role of multiple objectives and goals within a policy mix for fostering BMI, which, if balanced appropriately, can create a productive tension between support and constraints. Third, we suggest the distinction between sector-specific and society-wide policy mixes as an analytical tool to study these tensions in policy mix research.

Publication details
Net zero & sustainable development
Research paper
Brophy, Aoife
Research Policy

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