03 May 2016

New grant supports
climate innovation research

The European Research Council (ERC) has awarded a prestigious Starting Grant to Charlie Wilson, a researcher at IIASA and the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research in the UK.

© MNStudio | Adobe Stock Photo

© MNStudio | Adobe Stock Photo

The new ERC grant will fund a four-year research project. It will explore the role that social influence plays in spreading new innovations that could help reduce society’s dependence on fossil fuels. 

The project leader, Charlie Wilson, is a visiting research scholar at IIASA and a lecturer in the Tyndall Centre at the University of East Anglia in the UK. IIASA researcher Arnulf Grubler also serves as a senior adviser on the project.

In order to address climate change, major transformations are needed in the global energy sector. But at the same time, seemingly small-scale innovations can make a very large difference. Things like car-sharing networks, car-free communities, and net zero energy buildings can add up if and when they become commonplace. But so far there has been little research about what causes such innovations to spread, why people adopt them or not.

“There are many exciting innovations at the fringes of current practice that can disrupt the way we do things, the way we use energy, and the way our economy works. These disruptive innovations can offer big reductions in emissions if adopted at scale. I hope to find out how disruptive innovations become pervasive by examining processes of social influence - observing how people talk, blog and tweet about innovations and in so doing, help them to spread,” says Wilson.

The new study will compile data in multiple countries using a range of methods. It will include both networks of early adopters as well as the general population of potential future adopters. The research team of Wilson, two post-doctoral researchers and two PhD researchers will analyze the data to determine how the structure of different social networks−interpersonal, neighborhood, online−and the flow of information through these social networks affects the spread of low-carbon innovations.  

This project has received funding from the European Research Council Starting Grant No. 678799. Project Name: Social Influence and Disruptive Low Carbon Innovations (SILCI)

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Last edited: 03 May 2016


Charlie Wilson

Research Scholar

Transformative Institutional and Social Solutions Research Group

Energy, Climate, and Environment Program

Sustainable Service Systems Research Group

T +43(0) 2236 807 426

Arnulf Grubler

Emeritus Research Scholar

Sustainable Service Systems Research Group

Energy, Climate, and Environment Program

Transformative Institutional and Social Solutions Research Group

T +43(0) 2236 807 470


International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Schlossplatz 1, A-2361 Laxenburg, Austria
Phone: (+43 2236) 807 0 Fax:(+43 2236) 71 313