The TISS group explores innovative solutions to environmental issues that integrate social, institutional, and governance drivers with technological and economic considerations, with an emphasis on improving conditions for the most deprived and marginalized in society.

The research objective of TISS is to identify, analyze and promote innovative technological, social and institutional solutions for human development that leave no one behind and that respect planetary boundaries. Novel approaches are required to achieve a rapid transformation that reconciles much needed human development, particularly for the most deprived and marginalized in society, with environmental preservation and ecosystems restoration. Such solutions span a wide range from digital service provision, to integrated sharing and circular economy concepts, to decentralized, distributed infrastructures which empower active “prosumers”. Central to them all is that they can provide improved access to and provision of services critical for human well-being (nutrition, shelter, health, mobility, communication, social interactions) with vastly reduced resource and environmental footprints.

TISS research emphasizes particularly two focal areas:

  1. A systemic analysis of technological, social and institutional innovations (including inter alia new business models, social entrepreneurship, and novel public policy designs) with a focus on end-use services for human wellbeing that minimize negative environmental impacts.
  2. Integration of heterogeneity, governance, distributional and equity considerations in policy analysis and implementation under a broader framing of transformations towards resilient & sustainable futures.

TISS research can draw both on the accumulated research achievements of its research staff, novel methodological approaches, as well as a wide array of online resources (see also below) made available for the use of the wider scientific and policy communities and that provided critical inputs to the work of the IPCC and The World in 2050 Initiative. Important research TISS can build on include for example (see below links to selected publication highlights): A thorough understanding of innovation systems combining conceptual with detailed empirical case studies; search on granular technology options and their advantages for equitable access to services and for rapid upscaling; empirical research on distributions and deprivations of access to service provision critical for human development; the influential research on Decent Standards of Living, again combining conceptual theoretical work with empirical quantifications.

The group’s three research areas include:

Energy services and infrastructure for decent living

Access to energy services and basic infrastructures are fundamental to meeting basic human needs, and a key requirement in the fight to eradicate poverty around the world and achieve decent living standards (DLS) Using the lens that people demand amenities and services rather than products and goods, this research entails both a diagnostic (identification of provisioning gaps) as well as a policy dimension (identifying novel options and crafting strategies for their rapid rollout and implementation). This research can build on considerable in-house knowledge, data and tools that were developed in pioneering work on describing heterogeneity in levels of service provisioning, a broader focus on distributive justice in human and planetary wellbeing, and the multiple dimensions of inequality, modeling energy access, as well as the development of the concept of Decent Standards of Living.

Technological, social, and institutional innovation for development

Meeting development needs under planetary boundaries requires novel solutions combining technological, social and institutional innovations which are interdependent. TISS research aims to identify those novel solutions that provide needed services while minimizing negative environmental externalities and provide new business and economic opportunities for development. Examples include digital service provisions and novel forms of shared mobility that seamlessly integrate public transport with on-demand private mobility via shared vehicle fleets. This research can draw on considerable in-house expertise on innovation systems and the determinants of successful (or unsuccessful) innovations from two decades of prior research at IIASA.

Governance and institutional structures

Quality of institutions and effective governance are some of the key enablers of feasible transformations of our societies and economies towards a climate-neutral and sustainable world. TISS research is building bridges between political science and political economy approaches, and quantitative scenarios and modeling efforts, to enhance the representation of governance and institutional capacities that, for instance, effect the extent to which adaptive capacity of a society is constrained or climate policies and low-carbon transition pathways are feasible. Work in this area aims to contribute to understanding of the role of policies, institutions and governance in sustainable energy system transitions.

Selected Publications Highlights

Models, tools, datasets

Photo 238871488 © Lakshmiprasad S |

Energy Access Interactive (ENACT)

gas pipeline

Model for Energy Supply Strategy Alternatives and their General Environmental Impact (MESSAGEix)

Photo 134399877 © Designer491 |

ENGAGE Scenario Explorer


Beige and colored pawns grouped together

Exploring National and Global Actions to reduce Greenhouse gas Emissions (ENGAGE)

Abstract image: hand holding Earth against sunset with network concept superimposed

GeoEngineering and NegatIve Emissions pathways in Europe (GENIE)

Grossglockner Austria

Next generation of AdVanced InteGrated Assessment modelling to support climaTE policy making (NAVIGATE)

Sustainable development goals

Sustainable development pathways achieving Human well-being while safeguarding the climate And Planet Earth (SHAPE)


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Manyu Wang

Guest Research Assistant (TISS)

Bas van Ruijven profile picture

Bas van Ruijven

Research Group Leader and Senior Research Scholar (S3); Senior Research Scholar (IACC, TISS)

Adriano Vinca profile picture

Adriano Vinca

Research Scholar (IACC, TISS)

Caroline Zimm profile picture

Caroline Zimm

Research Scholar (TISS, EQU)


Biomass distribution

29 September 2023

Ron Milo from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel visits IIASA

IIASA recently welcomed Ron Milo, an Associate Professor from the Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, to discuss ongoing research projects and explore future collaborations between the two institutes.
Performers on the stage during a performance of Breath

30 August 2023

Performing artists and scientists take the stage at Vienna’s MuTh theatre

An Austrian choreographer, an American playwright, and a Dutch composer have collaborated with scientists to shed light on various dimensions of the ecological crisis in artistic ways. On 6 October 2023 at 20:00 CET, they will present some of their work in an engaging program titled “What We Want” at the MuTh, one of Vienna’s well-known concert halls.
Solar powered irrigation

23 August 2023

Solar powered irrigation: a game-changer for small-scale farms in sub-Saharan Africa

A new study finds that standalone solar photovoltaic irrigation systems have the potential to meet more than a third of the water needs for crops in small-scale farms across sub-Saharan Africa.


28 September 2023

Feasible futures

Policy Brief #41, October 2023. Embracing the notion of feasibility, this research shows that the world will probably overshoot 1.5°C, largely owing to low institutional capacity. Energy demand reduction and electrification are two options to turn down the heat, and addressing weak institutions is crucial.

23 June 2023

Japan and IIASA

Options Magazine, Summer 2023: Japan and IIASA have a long history of collaboration, dating back to the institute’s foundation in 1972. Over the years, the partnership has resulted in a multitude of research projects, workshops, and conferences, tackling complex issues on a global scale.
IIASA & Japan illustration

29 November 2022

Bridging the gap between science and policy

Options Magazine, Winter 2022: Leila Niamir is a computational economist and climate researcher driven by a passion for global change.
IIASA Corner