An institutional study of a government-led green technology innovation scheme

  • Amani Gharib

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Climate change has emerged as a critical challenge and is now recognized as a central part of a government’s sustainable development goals. Governments around the world have attempted to address the challenge of climate change by diffusing a range of green technology innovations. Such green technology innovation diffusions, however, are not without controversy.

This thesis focuses on one controversial government-led green technology innovation scheme which was comparatively small but nonetheless produced much larger institutional waves. The scheme led to a large-scale public inquiry and a collapse of a devolved government administration.

This thesis argues that in green scheme diffusion processes, people matter and are the products of institutional interactions. The institutional literature shows a range of ways in which social actors are instituted and how their reasoning and emotions impact discursive processes. There is however a gap in the exploration of emotive roles in processes of institutionalization, which pertain to the intersections between technology, the environment and society.

Theoretically, this thesis adopts an ‘inhabited institutional’ approach to guide and advance the research. It does so by developing distinct but inter-related arguments within three different articles (in the form of three chapters). These articles are brought together in this thesis through an integrated qualitative research design and investigation, showcasing an emerging institutional conceptualization of a green scheme.

The first article (Chapter 3) in this thesis focuses on the role of emotion work used in institutional disruption and maintenance. A process analysis of the government-led scheme shows the circulation and multiple entanglements of emotion work, demarcating between antagonists which disrupt the instituting of the scheme, and protagonists maintaining their institution, addressing a research gap. Using semantic network mapping, this article develops a model of the micro-dynamics of emotion work and reveals three insights. First, it demarcates between the actors that disrupt the instituting of the scheme (antagonists), and actors that maintain their institution (protagonists). Second, it displays four dimensions of emotion work interactions between antagonists and protagonists, and how such displays evolve throughout the process of the scheme. Third, the micro-processes of emotion work entanglements by antagonists and protagonists are shown, as emotional network ties.

The second article (Chapter 4) in this thesis explores industrial customer responses amidst a scheme crisis. Due to institutional breaches and governance issues associated with the evolving scheme, industrial customers were impacted, warranting various responses, thereby impacting the green market. This article identifies institutional breaches associated with a crisis, and three types of prevailing industrial customer responses when such severe and protracted breaches persist. This builds on past research and contributes to the institutional work literature by delineating industrial customer responses to institutional processes, showing the evolved retorts amidst a crisis.

The third article (Chapter 5) in this thesis explores an institutional cooptative analysis of the scheme, and how the government attempted to maintain and regain its legitimacy in the face of attacks. The paper cultivates a contextual understanding of cooptation by theorizing new practices for governments diffusing green technology innovation schemes, as a means to maintain their legitimacy. Through discursive texts, this research highlights how the crisis behind the implementation and monitoring of the scheme impacted government legitimacy, and how institutional cooptation can shore up and maintain institutional continuity, stability, and authority.

With the three distinct articles, this thesis identifies important strategies, and further unpacks a broader discussion on practical diffusion implications for institutions.

Thesis embargoed until 31st July 2025.
Date of AwardJul 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SupervisorMark Palmer (Supervisor) & Min Zhang (Supervisor)


  • Institutional work
  • innovation
  • green
  • renewable energy source
  • emotions
  • legitimacy
  • governance
  • institutional theory
  • technology
  • diffusion of innovation theory
  • diffusion
  • adoption
  • responses
  • qualitative case study

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