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
 

Themes

Just and Feasible Transitions

Scenario Services and Scientific Software

Access to Energy Services

Heterogeneities and Inequalities

Models, tools, datasets

Photo 238871488 © Lakshmiprasad S | Dreamstime.com

Energy Access Interactive (ENACT)

gas pipeline

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

Photo 134399877 © Designer491 | Dreamstime.com

ENGAGE Scenario Explorer

Projects

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)

Staff

Adriano Vinca profile picture

Adriano Vinca

Research Scholar (IACC, TISS)

No image available

Tieju Ma

Guest Senior Research Scholar (S3, TISS)

Olivia Coldrey profile picture

Olivia Coldrey

Guest Research Scholar (TISS)

No image available

Pat Wagner

Program and Project Officer (IACC, S3, TISS)

News

De-growth

08 April 2024

Reducing production and consumption growth in high-income countries: is it good for tackling climate change?

A new study led by Jarmo Kikstra, a research scholar in the IIASA Energy, Climate, and Environment Program, explores whether reducing production and consumption growth could make a significant contribution to resolving the climate crisis.
Research concept

12 March 2024

Pioneering project investigating crisis effects on social systems wins FWF Emerging Fields Funding

The Austrian Science Fund (FWF) has awarded the Resilience and Malleability of Social Metabolism (REMASS) project funding of over six million euros for the next five years. This is an important milestone for this new field of research, which is being carried out by scientists from several Austrian institutions including IIASA.
Energy security

29 February 2024

Improving energy security with policies focused on demand-side solutions

Energy systems essential to supporting our everyday activities face increasing threats from wars, pandemics, climate change, and other unexpected events. An international team of researchers found that demand-oriented solutions have a significantly greater potential to reduce our vulnerability to energy crises compared to supply measures.

Focus

Group of friends with backpacks hiking in the mountains

22 January 2024

Navigating the climate justice landscape

IIASA researchers Caroline Zimm and Kian Mintz-Woo explain the benefits of a recently developed operational framework that aims to bring clarity to the often implicit and varied justice considerations in climate mitigation scenarios, fostering a shared language and understanding to enhance decision-making processes in the intricate landscape of climate policy.

Sustainable building

21 December 2023

High wellbeing with low energy demand towards modern net-zero cities

Following the International Vienna Energy and Climate Forum in November 2023, IIASA researcher Benigna Boza-Kiss reflects on the contribution from the IIASA EDITS project team to this conference, which brought together experts from various disciplines to discuss multi-faceted energy demand in cities like Vienna.

Publications