Weaving an innovation network from the middle-out: the case of the renewable energy ecosystem

Tali Zohar, Yael Parag, Ofira Ayalon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Renewable energy (RE) systems are becoming a central component of the clean energy transition and are often seen as the way to combat climate change. Their establishment requires innovation, investments, and deployment policies for emerging technologies. Governments around the world are increasingly trying to create and support the energy-tech and climate-tech innovation ecosystems in their attempt to promote an innovation-supporting environment. However, energy innovation policies are often aligned with the dichotomous notion of technology-push and market-pull and overlook the social, political, and cultural contexts in which RE innovative technologies are embedded, and the multiple actors and interactions that are associated with their development. By combining the Middle-Out Perspective (MOP) and innovation literature, this paper argues that an innovation ecosystem could be weaved from the middle-out. Methods: This paper analyzes the case of ‘Eilat-Eilot Renewable Energy Initiative’ and Israel’s RE innovation ecosystem creation through the lens of the MOP and applies a socio-technical interpretation to the push and pull terminology. Process tracing methodology was applied to trace a sequence of events to determine whether an actor was pushed or pulled, the formation of a network of actors, and its evolvement to an energy innovation ecosystem from the middle-out. Data for the analysis were collected from interviews, policy papers, media articles, and Governmental decisions. Results: The analysis demonstrates how middle actors push the implementation of RE technologies in Israel, and at the same time pull decision-makers and other middle actors to promote the low carbon transition. The push and pull forces and the interactions between actors lead to the engagement of new stakeholders in the innovation network, the adoption of more ambitious RE targets and supporting policies, and the creation of an effective RE innovation ecosystem. Conclusions: This paper uses the MOP as an analytical framework and the push and pull terminology to demonstrate how a middle actor initiates and develops an actor-network by interacting with other actors. As this network broadens, it forms an effective innovation ecosystem. A network of actors has the potential to lead change, provide innovative ideas, initiate research, encourage investments, create employment possibilities, and promote regional sustainable development.

Original languageEnglish
Article number37
JournalEnergy, Sustainability and Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The ‘Eilat-Eilot Renewable Energy’ initiative began its activity as a department within the Eilot Regional Council in 2002, and by 2006, it became a separate entity. In 2012 it was established as a public benefit corporation that receives financial support from the city of Eilat and the Eilot Regional Council and is owned by the Kibbutzim and regional economic organizations.

Funding Information:
This study was supported by Israel Science Foundation (ISF Grant no. 184542).

Funding Information:
In 2021, pushed by the Ministry of Energy's call for funding energy storage pilots, a partnership was formed between a Kibbutz in the region and a company from the ‘Capital Nature’ incubator. At the end of the year, a pilot of a 1 MW compressed air storage system in the Arava had been constructed and tested. Committed to the target of becoming energy self-sufficient by 2025, the city of Eilat and the Eilot Region Council published a call for experts to obtain knowledge regarding solar energy storage technologies. The two municipalities, via Eilat-Eilot, are developing several projects to promote off-grid public buildings in their territories. In addition, the feasibility of developing a regional macro-grid (a separated southern electricity grid) is being examined in collaboration with the Ministry of Energy.

Funding Information:
In 2012, pushed by the financial support from the Ministry of Energy and the Ministry of Economy, ‘Capital Nature’ inaugurated the first RE technology incubator in Israel, in the Eilot Regional Council. Clean-tech and energy-tech start-ups that applied to the incubator were committed to operating in the Arava for 2 years, during which they received funding, provided with workspace free of charge, and access to laboratories. Capital Nature’s experts provided guidance and mentoring services to the start-ups, assisted in identifying business opportunities, and established connections with potential investors. The incubator promoted various collaborations between the commercial sector and academic research institutions, thus extending and bolstering the network of stakeholders while increasing its technological and financial capacities to foster innovation.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).


  • Actor networks
  • Innovation ecosystem
  • Market pull
  • Middle-out
  • Technology push

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Development
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology


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