The Computational Innovation Lab on Crises, Transformation and Sustainable Development

Providing actionable data and computational models for transformative changes in a world of crises and shocks.

Through its research agenda on ‘Comprehensive Innovation for Sustainable Development (CI4SD), UNU-MERIT aims to generate new knowledge on the intricate nature and role of innovation in complex social-economic-technological settings. The objective of the Computational Innovation Lab on Crises, Transformation and Sustainable Development (CIL) is to translate this knowledge into new methods, tools, policies and governance structures, and to educate and train students, researchers and policymakers to assimilate, apply and implement these new insights.

In line with its 2021-2025 Strategic Plan, UNU-MERIT is creating a new research line in the institute, focusing on the design, development and use of new data, modelling and simulation methods and techniques for improving our understanding of comprehensive innovation – an area we refer to as computational innovation.

The CIL serves as UNU-MERIT’s new institutional expertise centre on data, AI and computational modelling to strengthen UNU-MERIT’s strategic agenda on comprehensive innovation for sustainable development (CI4SD). Drawing upon the research expertise of the institute, the Lab’s mission is to provide actionable data and computational models for research, education and policy-making on CI4SD.

The Lab’s focus is on the contribution of data, AI and computational models to understand the impacts of crises and systemic shocks (caused by conflict, natural disasters, health crises, or climate change) on sustainable development and the impact of the “green transformation”. The green transformation aims to bring the economy within the limits of planetary boundaries while ensuring economic and societal progress for current and future generations.

Research in the lab aims to contribute to our understanding of how transformative innovation can contribute to sustainable development goals while responding and adapting to crises and shocks, given diverse institutional and governance landscapes. For example, how do crises such as extreme climate events (floods and heat waves), or the war in Ukraine and the green transformation impact socio-economic outcomes with regard to distributional consequences both within (e.g., by analyzing the relationship between carbon footprints and income inequality using detailed household data) and between countries and regions (e.g., between the global north and south) as well as to labour market outcomes (e.g., what are the jobs and occupations that will accompany a green transformation that is resilient against shocks)

The Lab’s research agenda thus focuses on the complex interplay between crises and systemic shocks, green transformation, and sustainable development. Research in the Computational Innovation Lab will have strong empirical grounding, using real-world data and case studies. The resulting data, information and models will be made available on a new data analysis platform, accessible to researchers within UNU-MERIT and globally.

Launch Date

The new Lab will be formally launched on Friday, April 21 2023. In the pre-launch phase of the Lab, the inaugural team of Computational Innovation Lab Research Fellows and Associates will co-create with UNU-MERIT staff a strategy for data analytics, information management and the data analysis platform design. This strategy will identify and prioritize ideas and initial projects to maximize impact, visibility and partnerships for the institute.