Captured by technology? How material agency sustains interaction between regulators and industry actors

Finch, J. , Geiger, S. and Reid, E. (2017) Captured by technology? How material agency sustains interaction between regulators and industry actors. Research Policy, 46(1), pp. 160-170. (doi: 10.1016/j.respol.2016.08.002)

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This paper examines how environmental regulation is made operational when it legislates for modifications rather than the banning of products or substances. The continued circulation of such products draws attention to the heterogeneous conditions of their use and allows industry actors to accumulate evidence of the products’ polluting effects over time. We find that this agentic quality of materials – including products and sites of application – is a vital and so far largely ignored dimension in the relationship between environmental regulation and innovation. This is captured in a process we term interactive stabilization, which describes how material agency becomes a focus for interactions between regulatory and industry actors. We develop our argument through an in-depth case study of the environmental regulation of production chemistry and identify three interactive processes: formulating regulatory principles; operationalizing these principles through technical documentation and calculation; and incremental innovation as used by chemists to address clients’ varied material problems in production. We trace stabilizing and destabilizing effects across these three processes and draw particular attention to the role of uncertainty in the operationalization of precaution as a regulatory principle. We argue that this uncertainty may lead to a form of regulatory capture that we frame as technological capture. This refers to how industry actors are able to test the limits of regulatory principles and calculations and on occasion contest these through their applied science capabilities.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Finch, Professor John
Authors: Finch, J., Geiger, S., and Reid, E.
College/School:College of Social Sciences > Adam Smith Business School > Management
Journal Name:Research Policy
ISSN (Online):1873-7625
Published Online:29 August 2016
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2016 Elsevier B.V.
First Published:First published in Research Policy 46(1): 160-170
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
621421Sorting Goods from BadsJohn FinchLeverhulme Trust (LEVERHULME)F/00 273/NBUS - MANAGEMENT