INOV - Sociétés Innovantes, innovation, économie, modes de vie

Labelling for Innovation – LAPIN

Labeling for innovating in the construction industry branch

The purpose of the project is to analyze the way economic actors and public policy makers use labels for the orientation, coordination and stimulation of sustainable innovation in the construction sector.

Analysis of the role of labels in sustainable innovation in the construction sector

As the concern for sustainable development grows in the construction sector, the collective dynamics of innovation are reconfigured. The rising role of labels in the coordination of innovation activities at the level of the industry branch is a major trend of these transformations. Labeling appears as a way to enhance the diffusion and the acceptability of innovation: it is used to secure the conformity of products, processes and organizations with professional practices, regulations and quality standards. The objective of project LAPIN is to investigate the dynamics of emergence and construction of labels and to study their role in the shaping of innovation patterns and in the articulation of economic and political stakes associated with sustainable development.

The project carries out social science and management science investigation. Fieldwork is conducted in the construction sector, as it features a proliferation of labels in the recent period (passive house, bio-sourced building, etc). The project focuses on the French context so as to enable a detailed examination of labeling processes, but it will also shed light on European processes. The aim is to situate labels in their current compelling environment (international business, European directives…) and to give prominence to the interactions between national and European or international standardization initiatives. The project questions the articulation between political and economic processes in innovation, and it explores the modalities of public intervention in the dynamics of labeling. Il examines the ways in which public authorities intervene in the economic logics that labels contribute to establish and stabilize. Finally, the project qualifies the strategies and practices of a particular category of actors that play an important role in this industry branch, the small businesses and SMEs. It examines the impacts of labeling on the way in which these actors build a relation with their markets and adapt their skills to the environment.
Methods mobilized for these empirical investigations include case studies and qualitative surveys. The project reconstitutes the history of a series of labels that are important in the domain, and examines their inscription in the particular innovative contexts with which they are associated; qualitative surveys will be used to research the ways in which small businesses and SMEs in the construction sector integrate labels in their economic and technological strategies

The project will generate an analytical framework dedicated to qualifying the engagement of labeling processes, taking into account the role of players in the construction sector, the market dynamics and the modality of intervention of public authorities

Broadening the scope, the project aims to fuel the general reflection on the governance of sustainable innovation at the crossroad of political and economic dynamics.

Communication at the 2013 conference of the l’Association Française de Sciences Politiques : B. Laurent, A. Mallard, A. Tricoire, 2013, « Gouverner (par) les labels. Labellisation et innovation dans les politiques du développement durable », communication dans le cadre de la session 16 du colloque, « Sociologie des politiques économiques. »

The current incitation for achieving sustainable development objectives in building sector contributes to reconfigure the collective innovation processes. The important role played by quality signs (i.e. “labels” in French) in innovation coordination is a major trend characteristic of these evolutions.
Thus, labeling in the building sector is a new way of diffusing and making innovation acceptable for the whole range of the actors involved. By labeling products, processes, practices and organizations, a quality sign guarantees the conformity to good professional practices, to regulations, norms and standards all built for the sake of a specific idea of quality, and, thereby, for that of specific objectives for innovation.
The LAPIN project has a twofold objective. It aims to analyze the ways in which labeling contributes to shape the dynamics of innovation in the building sector. It also aims to connect the analysis of economic and political modes of collective action in complex environments and specifically in those related to sustainable development.
The fieldworks focus on the building sector, in which the number of labels is currently increasing (« Bâtiments Basse Consommation », « Bâtiment bio-sourcé », « Eco-artisans »…). The analysis focuses on France, in order to study in a very detailed way the labeling processes. But this national level is contextualized in an international perspective, mostly at the European level. Indeed, studying labeling in the international environment allows us, on the one hand, to consider labels within their current regulatory context (European directives, international trade, etc.) and, on the other hand, to highlight the historical trends that have contributed, since 1945, to frame what labels are and do nowadays. The project will also study the connections between political and economical processes in innovation by investigating how public policies interact with labeling dynamics. Through case-studies, the project aims to understand how public bodies are involved, directly or not, in the markets shaped by the intervention of labels. Eventually, the project focuses specifically on a category of actors playing a crucial role in the building sector, namely craftsmen working in small and medium companies. The objective is to study the impact of the sustainability objective in labeling on the way these actors build their relationships to the market and thereby transform their skills.
The LAPIN project analyzes labels transversally, by study the ways they contribute to shape design and development processes, commercialization, and organizations in the building sector.

Project coordinator

Monsieur Alexandre Mallard (ARMINES Centre de Sociologie de l'Innovation de Mines ParisTech) –

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


ARMINES CGS ARMINES Centre de Gestion Scientifique de Mines ParisTech
EDF R&D Electricité de France Recherche et Développement
ARMINES CSI ARMINES Centre de Sociologie de l'Innovation de Mines ParisTech
CSTB Centre Scientifique et Technique du Bâtiment

Help of the ANR 269,727 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: January 2013 - 36 Months

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