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)


Leila Niamir profile picture

Leila Niamir

Research Scholar (S3, TISS)

Charlie Wilson profile picture

Charlie Wilson

Senior Research Scholar (S3, TISS)

Caroline Zimm profile picture

Caroline Zimm

Research Scholar (TISS, EQU)

Gamze Ünlü profile picture

Gamze Ünlü

Researcher (IACC, TISS)


High with low_image_blue_2

24 January 2024

Less is more: less greenhouse gases, lower energy consumption, higher wellbeing

A new commentary, published by members of the Energy Demand Changes Induced by Technological and Social Innovations (EDITS) network, coordinated by IIASA, highlights that switching the focus from how energy is supplied to how energy is consumed can be a more effective approach to reducing carbon emissions with the added benefit of improving wellbeing for all.
Earth from space at night

23 January 2024

Fostering global cooperation to safeguard critical Earth system functions

Tipping elements of the Earth system should be considered global commons, researchers argue in a new paper published in the renowned journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
Yellow and black climate justice plackards leaning against a wall after a protest

08 January 2024

Exploring dimensions of justice in climate science

How can climate policy be made more just and fair? IIASA researchers have synthesized different dimensions of justice into a framework that can be used by climate scientists and policymakers, explaining how previous research has neglected many potential justice positions and how these can be implemented in policy contexts.


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.