Transitions to New Technologies

The strategic goals of the Transitions to New Technologies (TNT) Program are: i) to further the understanding of the patterns, drivers, constraints, impacts, and dynamics of technological change, particularly in areas like climate change that are key for framing global sustainability conditions; and ii) to disseminate policy-relevant research findings through high-level global forums and major international scientific assessments.

In terms of systems hierarchy, technological change extends 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, as well as both public and private sector actors. Technological innovation is thus driven by a combination of market forces and public policy. TNT’s strategic research goals therefore focus on the systemic aspects of technological change developed through empirical case studies, associated “meta-analyses,” and novel modeling approaches. Research methods also include scenario studies and robustness analysis to inform technology policy choices and entrepreneurial innovation strategies from a systemic perspective.

A major objective of TNT is to maximize the visibility of its research through participation in a few key international assessments and collaborative activities, most notably the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). TNT also provides a critical service to the international scientific community through its scientific data documentation and dissemination software and its database tool development.

TNT research aims for an improved empirical understanding that feeds into new approaches to model technological change. It emphasizes the treatment of technological uncertainty, and spatial and actor heterogeneity; it also assesses the potential economic and societal impacts that could result from pervasive diffusion and adoption of new technologies.

Priority is given to technology areas that maximize synergies and interaction with other IIASA research programs, in particular the energy and climate areas. This research is complemented by exploratory analysis in other key policy-relevant areas such as development and human wellbeing.