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)


Narasimha Rao profile picture

Narasimha Rao

Senior Research Scholar (TISS)

Charlie Wilson profile picture

Charlie Wilson

Senior Research Scholar (S3, TISS)

No image available

Pat Wagner

Program and Project Officer (IACC, S3, TISS)

Keywan Riahi profile picture

Keywan Riahi

Program Director and Principal Research Scholar (ECE); Principal Research Scholar (IACC, PM, S3, TISS)


Green mountains and valley with waterfall

24 March 2023

Urgent need to ramp up climate action to secure a liveable future for all

IIASA researchers contributed to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report released earlier this week. The report highlights that there are multiple feasible and effective options to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to human-caused climate change, and they are available now.
Carbon tax concept with industrial plant

23 March 2023

The global economics of climate action

Climate change has serious consequences for the environment and people and is a major threat to economic stability. A new assessment reviews innovative, integrated research that underpins the economic case for strong near-term climate action.


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

28 November 2022

Linking health status and clean cooking practices in South Africa

Options Magazine, Winter 2022: Transitioning to clean cooking services in South Africa can reduce existing health inequalities by improving the health of socially disadvantaged and marginalized groups.
Regional impacts

24 November 2022

Charting fair pathways to climate neutrality

Options Magazine, Winter 2022: Equitably sharing the costs of mitigation is vital to ensure a just transition to a net-zero world. By calculating the impact of national policies on global emissions and exploring different effort-sharing schemes, the ENGAGE Project is at the forefront of developing feasible solutions.
Science into policy