Transitions to New Technologies

The strategic goal of the Transitions to New Technologies (TNT) Program is to further the understanding of the drivers, constraints, impacts, and dynamics of technological change, particularly in the areas that are key for global sustainability. The program also disseminates policy-relevant research findings through high-level global fora and participates in major international cross-cutting research projects and assessments.

Technological change arises from the spatial and temporal diffusion of individual innovations all the way up to the emergence of new technological combinations that could fundamentally redefine products, services, and even entire markets. The development of new technologies, either individually, or in new combinations, requires both “supply push” as well as “demand pull” forces, and both public and private sector actors. In other words, technological innovation is driven by a combination of market forces and public policy and hence requires an integrated and systemic approach. TNT’s strategic research goal consequently focuses on the systemic aspects of technological change and draws on empirical case studies, associated meta-analyses, novel modeling approaches, as well as scenario studies and robustness analysis to inform technology policy choices and entrepreneurial innovation strategies from a systemic perspective.

TNT’s research has traditionally been in the energy and climate areas and is currently being expanded with a focus on nexus technologies that enable improved natural resource management integrated between air, water, energy, and land as well as general purpose technologies that hold the promise for simultaneously serving a range of sustainable development objectives. TNT’s research therefore covers technologies both in terms of “hardware” (plants and equipment) which are either single purpose or general purpose technologies (that can be applied in a variety of sectors, e.g. Information and communications technology) and “software” (innovation policy frameworks, or social behaviors) that govern the development and diffusion of technological hardware.

Finally, TNT aims to maximize the visibility of its research through participation in a few, key international assessments and collaborative activities in a joint effort with other IIASA research programs. It also provides, through its data documentation and dissemination software and database tool development, a critical service to the international scientific community.