Industrial Path Development in the UK Space Sector: Processes of Legitimacy Building in the Establishment of Space 2.0

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A new research paper by Dr Chloe Billing, Professor John Bryson, and Dr Tasos Kitsos published in Industry and Innovation examines how legitimacy building enables the emergence of new industries. Through studying the rise of “New Space” in the UK, the authors find that successfully developing cognitive, normative, and regulatory legitimacy across multiple scales through collective action is essential. The paper develops an analytical framework capturing the complex interlayering between different forms of legitimacy. It shows that supporting new sectors requires “de-locking” established mindsets and policies. These lessons can help pioneers in other fields develop transformative innovations and new industrial pathways.

A new research paper published in Industry and Innovation examines the crucial role that legitimacy building plays in the emergence of new industries. It focuses on the rise of “New Space” or Space 2.0 – the new private space sector that is radically transforming the old Space 1.0 industry.

Through an in-depth analysis of the development of the UK’s Space 2.0 industry, the authors identify the complex, multi-layered processes required to establish legitimacy for new sectors with very different products, technologies, and approaches compared to incumbent industries.

Forms of legitimacy

They explain that there are three main forms of legitimacy – cognitive, normative, and regulatory. Cognitive legitimacy relates to the degree to which products and companies are understood. Normative legitimacy depends on conforming to societal values. Regulatory legitimacy means complying with formal rules and regulations.

The paper finds that successfully developing these three types of legitimacy through organisational and collaborative efforts across actors at different spatial scales is essential for new industries to gain acceptance and access to resources.

For example, the emergence of Space 2.0 in the UK relied on simultaneously undoing the existing legitimacy of the old Space 1.0 industry in areas like launch technologies while building legitimacy for new private sector approaches. This requires ‘de-locking’ established mindsets and policies.

The authors develop a useful analytical framework to capture the complexity of legitimacy building for new industries. It has five key elements emphasising the feedback loops and interlayering between different forms of legitimacy and scales of activity.

This research shows that the formation of new sectors is not linear. Supporting new industry emergence requires policymakers and stakeholders to proactively shape cognitive, normative, and regulatory legitimacy across regional, national, and international levels through collective action.

With growing calls for new solutions to pressing societal issues, understanding the dynamics of legitimacy building is crucial. The lessons from this paper can help other sectors pioneer transformative innovations and develop new industrial pathways aligned with emerging priorities.

Access the paper via Taylor and Francis Online.

This blog was written by: Dr Chloe Billing, Research Fellow, City-REDI / WMREDI, University of Birmingham; Professor John Bryson, Professor of Enterprise and Economic Geography, University of Birmingham; Dr Tasos Kitsos, Lecturer in Economics, Aston University.

The views expressed in this analysis post are those of the authors and not necessarily those of City-REDI / WMREDI or the University of Birmingham.

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