For more than a decade, the concept of sustainable development has influenced the debates about new technology and innovation. While being initially focused on the environmental dimension, we have seen a shift towards the joint consideration of economic, environmental and social aspects of sustainable development. Although it is increasingly recognised that there is a need to give direction to innovation processes, direction in the sense of contributing to sustainable development, the dominant concepts for dealing with innovation and technology policy are still geared towards growth objectives. What are needed, however, are system innovations and a transition to a new technological regime that helps reorient our production–consumption systems and guides the future evolution of our science, technology and innovation systems in the direction of sustainable development. Such transitions can hardly be brought about by market forces alone because long-term issues of direction, of uncertainty and institutional change are involved. The problems we are facing are not only more complicated than in the past, but show complex characteristics with unpredictable long-term consequences. Understanding and subsequently managing transitions is currently an important research topic that is still in its infancy (Kemp and Rotmans 2005).