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How to go beyond “innovation for innovation’s sake?”

Published on
12 May 2020

Mid-April, the Citizens’ Convention for Climate submitted 50 proposals to the government in order to further advance the environmental transformation process and help avoid a new crisis caused by climate change. The primary challenge lies in ensuring innovation is done not simply for its own sake, but rather for the sake of the environmental transition.

How can we prepare for the aftermath of the Covid-19 crisis? How can we implement changes that offer hope for a new societal model in terms of environmental, health and economic issues? These questions were at the heart of the ambitious goals set by 150 citizens who participated in the convention. Participants were drawn from all across France and all types of background. They spent the past 6 months working on suggestions to reduce greenhouse gases by 40% before 2030 (in comparison to 1990 levels). This is the first time a panel of representative French citizens was directly involved in the preparation of new legislation. Two researchers and professors at Grenoble Ecole de Management share their insights on this process.

Carine Sebi is a professor at Grenoble Ecole de Management and an expert in the fields of economics and energy efficiency.

Increasing the rate of energy-related renovations is one of the proposals focused on by the convention as it creates jobs and saves money on energy bills. Current government indications encourage step-by-step renovations spread out over longer periods of time. The convention proposes that regulations be reinforced so that an overall renovation is required by 2040. Such a measure would be preferable in economic, energetic and technical terms.

The government should implement this proposal as of 2030 because it demonstrates the interest and acceptability on behalf of citizens for a massive investment in energy consumption renovations for housing. The Grenoble Ecole de Management Energy for Society chair currently aims to propose and test the acceptability of new energy services for coop renovations.

In response to the Covid-19 crisis, the convention argues for a different economic and social model that is more humane and robust. This includes a re-localization of activities to ensure our energy safety. Citizen energy communities such as Buxia Energies, Energ’Y Citoyennes, or Grési21 should inspire the convention because they meet all of the criteria for citizens to be more engaged in the energy transition, a sector that up until now was unavailable to them.

Thibault Daudigeos is a professor of management at Grenoble Ecole de Management. He is an expert on new organizational models for the transition towards a more environmentally friendly and solidary society. He is the coordinator of the Territories in Transition chair.


While France has just ended a difficult lockdown, nature appears to have benefited from this slowdown. But if we don’t change our current production and consumption models, this breath of fresh air will not last. To build on this slowdown, we should ask ourselves what we can draw from this experience and what we can leave behind from our “old model”.

During the lockdown, several platforms were created to coordinate new exchanges between neighbors and local businesses. These platforms are precursors to the regional services of tomorrow: local food networks, neighborhood concierge services, shared mobility, home helpers… The Territories in Transition chair launched a research program to understand and improve the governance of these platforms as well as their organizational and economic models.

The current crisis creates lots of uncertainty in terms of available resources. It will be very important to encourage behavior that combines low costs and high added value for the environment. For example, continuing to telecommute or encourage alternative mobility is an important aspect. It’s also an opportunity for tactical urbanism that will improve agility. The city of Grenoble for example suddenly added 18 kilometers of bike paths. To really meet our needs, local populations have to be involved in the decision making process. The territories in Transition chair recently created a panel of Grenoble metropolis citizens in order to test the solutions of tomorrow.

Link to the Territories in Transition chair

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