4. Sustainable Development, Innovation and Societal Transitions


René Kemp
Shyama V. Ramani

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Research in this area covers the shift toward sustainability of high and middle income countries. It considers the role of technology, innovation, actor strategies, capacity building and their impact on ‘transition trajectories’ at the micro and macro levels. The overarching research theme is the feasibility of pathways towards a more sustainable future, as well as building societal support for making such moves. ‘Inertia’ of various kinds can obstruct such transitions, and therefore they form an important research topic. This includes various factors including actor routines (e.g. habits and compulsive behavioural patterns by consumers and firms), technology features (e.g. high and fixed costs linked to energy-supply systems), and systemic capabilities (e.g. capacity to respond to global warming). Besides solutions design, we are also engaged in eco-innovation measurement, case analysis and policy evaluation.

 The UNU-MERIT research tradition follows two separate but related lines of inquiry. One is a combination of qualitative and quantitative research for studying innovation dynamics and how it can be managed by policymakers. An important aim is to explore possible solution designs for European and global challenges such as access to essentials (e.g. food, water, sanitation, medicine), transitioning to a green and circular economy, and education for sustainable development. The second research line covers the construction of economic models of the transition process. The incentive structure for R&D and investment, and capital-embodiment of technological change is an important part of these models, which often make use of optimal control techniques.

As researchers committed to creating a better world, we are actively involved in outreach and engagement with stakeholders.

1. The Economics of Knowledge and Innovation
2. Social Protection, Inclusive Innovation and Development
3. Economic Development, Innovation, Governance and Institutions
4. Sustainable Development, Innovation and Societal Transitions
5. Innovation Systems Indicators and Policy
6. Migration and Development
7. ICT-enabled Innovation and Societal Transformations
8. Population, Development and Labour Economics