Research Themes


The world faces a set of unique and unprecedented challenges. New and disruptive technologies associated with a desired transition to a more sustainable global economy, as well as with a so-called fourth industrial revolution will impact upon the way that we produce, work and live, offering the potential for huge economic and social benefits. But they also raise the spectre of rising inequality within and between countries, possibly to the extreme of a world without livelihood for many inhabitants. The effects of climate change increase uncertainty and fragility, particularly for the poorest parts of the world that are likely to bear the brunt of such change. Demographic changes and the demographic divide put pressure on the planet’s resources and impact upon virtually all development objectives, leading to severe pressure on social protection systems and adding to the migration crisis that sees the highest levels of displacement on record. These challenges are global in nature, but their effects are uneven, impacting on poor countries and on the poorest within these countries disproportionately, and adding to the difficulty of socio-economic development and catch-up within the global economy. These challenges are further intertwined, driving and exacerbating the effects of each other, and demanding an integrated approach to understanding and mitigating their consequences.

Research at UNU-MERIT addresses these and other global challenges from various perspectives, with the specific aim of contributing to policy debate and informing policymakers at the national and global level. The research aims at an understanding of the impact of technological, social, economic and political changes on individuals, households, firms and governments, with an emphasis on how these interactions impact upon local and global development patterns and upon the distribution of wealth, income, and well-being. To achieve this, research at UNU-MERIT is organised around eight thematic topics, each addressing a set of interrelated questions, with considerable interaction across the different themes to address the interrelated nature of the challenges and trends that are the focus of UNU-MERIT’s research agenda.

Research themes:

1. Economics of Knowledge and Innovation
2. Structural Change and Economic Development
3. Economic Complexity and Innovation
4. Governance and institutions
5. Innovation and Entrepreneurship for Sustainability Transitions
6. Migration and Development
7. Social Protection
8. Population, Development and Labour Economics


UNU-MERIT