The EF Program aspires to provide a comprehensive and rigorous framework for understanding the behavioral changes that are required to achieve social and environmental transformations and what policies and institutional reforms are needed to bring about the required incentives.

Explicit consideration is given to:  

  • The governance of transitional change.
  • The provision of equal life chances
  • The capacity of the economic system to deal with (prevent and adjust to) disruptive changes.
  • The conception of economic development and wellbeing in a finite and interlinked world. 

The program’s research integrates tightly with the natural, environmental, population, and systems science frameworks that IIASA is leading on, thus providing the multi-disciplinary approach needed for an understanding of the transition to sustainable, fair, and resilient economies. The program aims to act as an international hub for high-level external economic expertise as well as expertise from other relevant sciences (e.g., sociology, psychology, environmental and natural sciences, mathematics) to engage in capacity building, and to establish links with leading international research and policy institutions to leverage internal resources. 

Current EF Research Fields

The EF program started on 1 January 2021 and its research agenda is still being developed. While the program’s current research focuses on the two fields below, as well as topical research pertaining to economic aspects of COVID-19, the program is in the process of developing a research agenda for two additional fields on the Governance of Transitions (GT) and Economic Development and Wellbeing in a Finite and Interlinked World (EFW). Aspects of these fields are already present in the research undertaken under the two existing research fields where relevant.


Economics of Equal Life Chances (EELC)

Research undertaken as part of the EELC field focuses on issues related to distributional consequences of development trends and transformative policies, especially as it relates to vulnerable populations.

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Economics of disruptive change (EDC)

The EDC field embraces economic behaviors under the risk of large disruptive (regime changing) shocks, including climate tipping points, eco-system breakdown, pandemic shocks, and disruptive technological or political changes.

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Selected Program Publications

Chen, S., Cao, Z., Prettner, K., Kuhn, M., Yang, J., Jiao, L., Wang, Z., Li, W., Geldsetzer, P., Bärnighausen, T., Bloom, D.E., & Wang, C. (2023). Estimates and Projections of the Global Economic Cost of 29 Cancers in 204 Countries and Territories From 2020 to 2050. JAMA Oncology 9 (4) 465-472. 10.1001/jamaoncol.2022.7826.

Bloom, D.E., Kuhn, M., & Prettner, K. (2022). Modern Infectious Diseases: Macroeconomic Impacts and Policy Responses. Journal of Economic Literature 60 (1) 85-131. 10.1257/jel.20201642.

Feichtinger, G., Lambertini, L., Leitmann, G., & Wrzaczek, S. (2022). Managing the tragedy of commons and polluting emissions: a unified view. European Journal of Operational Research 303 (1) 487-499. 10.1016/j.ejor.2022.02.034.

Sanchez-Romero, M. (2022). Assessing the generational impact of COVID-19 using National Transfer Accounts (NTAs). In: Vienna Yearbook of Population Research 2022. pp. 1-35 Vienna Institute of Demography. ISBN 978-3-7001-8882-7 10.1553/populationyearbook2022.res1.2.


Current EF Research Themes

Research in the Economic Frontiers Program covers a broad range of topics. These topics can also span across the EF Research Fields and are examined from different perspectives within the program.

Covid-19 Virus © Lukas Gojda |

COVID-19 and pandemics

The Economic Frontiers Program investigated different aspects of the Covid-19 pandemic and pandemics in general and published their work in a wide range of scientific journals.

Vaccine intervention © Alphaspirit |

Optimal pandemic management

Researchers in the EF Program have worked on several projects and published multiple papers on different aspects of the management of the spread of an infectious disease.

Corona Virus © Thanasate Chancherngrob |

Importance of monitoring break-through infections

In cooperation with colleagues from the Wittgenstein Centre for Global Human Capital Sanchez-Romero investigated the impact of COVID-19 vaccines on the Case Fatality Rate (CFR) with specific focus on the monitoring of break-through infections.

Vaccine © Vetre Antanaviciute-meskauskiene |

The interplay of (higher) transmission rates and vaccine resistance in the evolution of novel SARS-CoV-2 strains

With the ongoing SARS-CoV-2 pandemic an issue of controlling the evolution and spread of novel variants is becoming very important. Yuliya Kulikova together with colleagues investigated the three main factors of particular epidemiological concern: higher infectivity, immunogenic drift (vaccine resistance), and increased virulence.

Generations © Heather Bridge |

Generational Impact of Covid-19

Miguel Sanchez-Romero conducted an in-depth investigation on the important aspect of the current COVID-19 crisis that not all age groups are equally affected by the pandemic.

Resilience © Dina Damotseva |

Climate impacts and energy transitions

Research in the Economic Frontiers program within both research groups concerns the impacts of climate change and the consequent transition processes. While the EELC research group focuses on the varying impacts on the heterogeneous population, the EDC group concentrates on the disruptive and general economic aspects of climate change.

Polluting industry © Grafphotogpaher |

Control of polluting emissions

The optimal control and taxation of polluting emissions is an perpetual question in the literature of environmental economics. Different economic settings require different tools and strategies to efficiently keep pollution under control. Stefan Wrzaczek together with international colleagues analyses these strategies within two different settings: (i) Management of the tragedy of commons and polluting emissions through taxation in different market settings. (ii) Pollution control under catastrophic climate change as a differential game.

Flooding © Witthayap |

Modelling household behaviour in the face of disaster risk

Their have been numerous empirical studies on the specific household characteristics correlated with the different components of disaster risk, i.e. exposure and vulnerability. In cooperation with colleagues from POPJUS and the TU Wien, Michael Freiberger establishes a dynamic household model, which explains the behavior with respect to the risk of natural disasters based on their inherent preferences. This theoretical model is essential for the realistic assessment of policy interventions, as it allows for a projection of intrinsically motivated reactions of households to potential policy interventions.

CO2 removal © Nicoelnino |

Regional energy transitions

Deep decarbonization of energy systems is a key step to restrict the global temperature rise to “well below 2 °C”. Majority of global net-zero emission scenarios emphasize on the large-scale deployment of Carbon dioxide removal (CDR) technologies like bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) to meet the global climate goals.

Magnifying formula © Martin Konopka |

Analytically investigating and extending IAMs

Integrated Assessment Models (IAMs) attempt to capture and describe the interactions of (i) human behaviour, (ii) economic activity, and (iii) and climate dynamics and impacts. However, IAMs are often treated as some sort of black-box when calculating solutions. Researchers of the Economic Frontiers Program try to investigate established IAMs from an analytical perspective and generate new insight and illuminate the black-boxes.

Health care © Andrii Yalanskyi |

Health and health care

EF researchers work on a wide range of topics relating to the role of health and health care in fostering socio-economic development prospects at the individual and societal level, and ultimately in raising the wellbeing of populations.

Health care system © Stockbakery |

Health care systems

In a diverse set of investigations, researchers at EF are assessing the role of the health care system in improving health, longevity and wellbeing while keeping track of the macroeconomic implications. A particular focus lies on the role of medical progress as a driver of increasing health care effectiveness.

Health care costs © Valeriya |

Economic Burden of Disease

Applying rigorous macroeconomic modelling around a human-capital augmented production function and state-of-the-art projections, in this line of work EF researchers are joining force with collaborators at Peking Union Medical College, University of Heidelberg, Harvard School of Public Health and Vienna University of Economics and Business in assessing the macroeconomic burden associated with a wide range of communicable and non-communicable diseases as well as the macroeconomic benefit of efforts aimed at disease reduction.

MRT scan © Oliver Sved |

Health shocks

Large shocks to health significantly impact an individual's well-being. However, the effects can substantially vary between individuals. Researcher in EELC conducted a study investigating the relationship between socioeconomic environment (SEE) and survival after ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) separately for women and men in the City of Vienna, Austria. Furthermore, researchers in EDC used a theoretical framework to assess the impact of a potential life-altering health shock on the consumption and health expenditure decisions over the whole individual life-cycle.

Inequality © Photo 257387070 © calypsoArt |

Inequality, human capital and just transitions

Research in the Economic Frontiers Program examines inequality and equal life chances from multiple perspectives. Analyses cover potential future transition processes with focus on their fairness across populations as well as the investigation of current public health and pension systems with respect to sources of inequality.

Path © Photo by Sahand Rezvan on Unsplash

Just Transitions to Net-Zero Carbon Emissions for All (JustTrans4ALL)

The IIASA Just transitions to net-zero carbon emissions for all (JustTrans4All) project, which forms part of a suite of projects under the IIASA Strategic Initiatives Program, will contribute to novel analyses of transition pathways that are socially and environmentally just. The project will inform policy design, aiming to achieve high levels of human wellbeing within planetary boundaries in line with the UN 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement.

Generations © Heather Bridge |

Drivers of intra- and intergenerational inequality

Miguel Sanchez-Romero has investigated questions on intra- and intergenerational wealth (amongst others in collaboration with colleagues from the Vienna Institute of Demography) as part of the Economic Frontiers Program. Thereby his work concerns topics ranging from fair pensions systems to the heterogeneous impacts of Covid-19.

Models, tools, datasets


Two-stage optimal control models with stochastic switch (2SOCS)

Community gets flooded

Modelling household risk behaviour (MODIBE)



Just Transitions to Net-Zero Carbon Emissions for All (JustTrans4ALL)

Coal transition

Modelling the regional welfare impacts of just coal transitions (JUSTCOAL)


Miguel Sanchez-Romero profile picture

Miguel Sanchez-Romero

Guest Research Scholar (EF)

No image available

Anna Monisso

Research Assistant (EF)

Claudia Reiter profile picture

Claudia Reiter

Guest Research Scholar (EF)

Qi Liu profile picture

Qi Liu

Guest Research Scholar (EF)


Conceptual image of COVID-19 vaccine and COVID infection on a world map

16 May 2023

Lockdowns and vaccines: a balancing act

A new study investigates whether COVID-19 lockdowns and vaccines complement or substitute each other, offering insights to policymakers about optimizing public health and economic outcomes.
Graph showing economic impacts of medical costs

24 February 2023

The price of cancer

A new study calculated the economic cost of cancers around the world, helping policymakers allocate resources appropriately and enact policies to curb the increase in cancer-related death and disability.
Wooden figures around a blue glass globe. Concept of cooperation and collaboration

20 January 2023

Austrian Federal Minister for Education, Science, and Research visits IIASA

IIASA recently welcomed Austria's Federal Minister for Education, Science, and Research, Martin Polaschek, to discuss ongoing research projects and explore potential collaborations between the institute and the Austrian government.



29 November 2022

Enhancing global resilience

Options Magazine, Winter 2022: Michael Freiberger is a mathematical economist who uses dynamic modeling to tackle risk related problems.
Global resilience
Mathematical equations.

06 October 2022

Understanding how climate tipping points impact industrial production

Maddalena Muttoni is a 2022 Young Scientists Summer Program participant in the IIASA Economic Frontiers Program. This summer, she modeled the relationship between the Earth’s carbon stock and industrial production, paying special attention to what happens at a climate change tipping point.

01 June 2022

Energy balance

A powerful new IIASA model is set to reveal the profound links between energy and inequality, and how to steer the energy transition towards a fairer future.