• SENSE Research Cluster XI: Industrial transformation - Sustainable production - Transitions to sustainability

    There is a growing awareness that sustainability demands system changes in the fields of e.g. food production, energy supply and transportation. This implies fundamental changes, transitions, in the patterns of production and consumption. What is the role of technological innovation in transitions? What is the role of producers and consumers? And how do changes in technology, society and individual behavior interact? Building on the concept of industrial transformation, participants in this cluster explore possibilities for innovation and stakeholder cooperation.

    This research field explores societal and technological developments and their dynamic interactions. Research that integrates the socio-sphere and the techno-sphere of the man-made environment has a high scientific complexity. Transitions towards sustainability have a high societal relevance. Participants in this SENSE Research Cluster strive for scientific excellence, combined with clear societal involvement.

    Featuring subjects, mechanisms and methods that are being developed and applied in this SENSE Research Cluster are, for example:

    • the metabolism of society as involved in production and consumption
    • understanding social and technological change in processes of long-term transitions toward sustainability
    • effective policies and decision making for sustainable technological development

    We welcome experts in the field of industrial transformation, sustainable production and transitions to sustainability to participate in this research cluster to exchange knowledge and stimulate new innovative developments (if you are not a member of the SENSE Research School but involved with this subject, then you are still welcome to enroll and participate in this research cluster).

    To read more about the SENSE research clusters in general, click HERE.

  • Open allClose all

  • Instructions: Clicking on the section name will show / hide the section.

  • View only 'Topic 1'

    Coordinators and experts


    SENSE key experts:

    • Prof. Henk Moll (RUG-IVEM)
    • Prof. Gert Spaargaren (WU-ENP)
    • Prof. Adri van den Brink (WU-LAR)
    • Dr. Bas van Vliet (WU-ENP)
    • Prof. Roy Brouwer (VU-IVM-EE)
    • Dr Walter Vermeulen (UU)

    Contact information:

    For more information about this research cluster, please contact Dr. Monique Gulickx (

    • View only 'Topic 2'


      To illustrate the urgency and relevance of new developments in this field, below we present some of the emerging research questions that are currently challenging both science and society in the research domain of SENSE Research Cluster XI:

      1. How can we actively involve consumers in sustainable transition pathways? In what way can present day lifestyles and consumption patterns be made more sustainable? What is the role of providers and end-users in this respect?
        Scientific and societal relevance: “The technological improvement in the production process has been insufficient to compensate for the increasing environmental impact of consumption growth". That is the main message of the ‘Milieubalans’ in 2006 and 2009. In other words: 'we would be doing great, if it wasn't for those consumers'. This example shows that a change in current consumption patterns clearly seems to be a prerequisite for sustainability. However, less clear is how these sustainable consumption patterns come about. Furthermore, considering the current massive interest in transition management policy and practice: what is the role of consumers in sustainability transitions? Are consumers partner or foe in the search for sustainable transitions? These questions indicate opposing views in the way sustainable consumption has to be dealt with. Certainly in policy circles there seems to be a wide distrust with regard to the possibilities of attaining sustainable consumer behaviour. Governments and NGOs show neglect of strategic relevance of consumer-empowerment and political consumerism. Policies usually try to circumvent direct consumer involvement. Therefore there is little knowledge about how to actively involve consumers in sustainable transition pathways. This approach would entail much more than an approach in which consumers are allocated a passive role as mere 'recipients' of sustainable innovations. It means looking for active consumer involvement. It means developing inspiring initiatives that, in stead of going directly against consumer lifestyles and consumption trends, builds upon these lifestyles and trends.
      2. How can more clarity be created on the influence of change in transportation systems, in combination with other social developments, on the perception, appreciation and actual transportation behavior of different groups of people?
        Scientific and societal relevance: For a transition towards a sustainable transport system, knowledge about the influence of transport system characteristics on human behaviour is crucial. Therefore, we must research how changes in transport systems (infrastructure, technology, transport vehicles and organization), combined with other social developments (like individualizing, ageing, internationalizing) influences perceptions, valuation and actual travel behaviour of social groups and organizations.
      3. How do we develop smart grids to accommodate decentralized, renewable energy production?
        Scientific and societal relevance: Most types of decentralized, renewable energy production (especially wind and sun) show variable yields that do not match fluctuations in energy demand. If wind and solar supply to electricity grids increases, grid imbalances are more likely. In order to avoid electricity breakdowns, we need a flexible, two-way electricity supply. This includes sophisticated types of ICT-control. Denominated as 'smart grids', this new generation of energy grids needs a lot of research and development.
      4. What technologies will be sustainable? How to develop sustainability evaluation of integrative, technological scenarios?
        Scientific and societal relevance: It is necessary to develop a sustainability evaluation of technological options. Such an evaluation provides guidance for technology and product development and policies. Sustainability evaluation of technologies must take into account physical constraints and technical, economic and social mechanisms. New dynamic input-output models can integrate results, as scenarios. Related questions are: What is the role of lifestyles and patterns of consumption? What is the role of providers and end-users in this respect?
      • View only 'Topic 3'


        Here you will be able to find interesting articles, links to books that are worth reading, presentations that caught your attention, etc. To suggest items that should be placed here, please follow the instructions mentioned below
        or send an email to the (technical) coordinators.

        • View only 'Topic 4'


          Add a document to the Library

          Do you have any interesting articles, reports or other documents that you want to share within this research cluster? You can add the by clicking on Upload Documents below. Please note that your document will not be visible in the library immediately, because it first has to be approved by the coordinator. You can also contact him if you would like your suggested document to be brought under our attention in a different way or if you would like the document to appear differently in the library (there are some options available for that).

          • View only 'Topic 5'

            Discussion forum

            In this forum topics related to cluster I can be discussed, varying from scientific issues to organizational matters. The forum is very easy to use.

            To enter the forum, click on Forum RC XI below. You will go to the overview page of the forum, where you can see all existing discussions. If you click on a discussion title, you will enter the discussion. You can read all posts and you can also respond to them, by clicking Reply.

            To add a new discussion topic, you can click on Add a new discussion topic on top of the overview page. Please make sure that your new discussion is really new and does not overlap with existing discussions, otherwise the forum will get messy.

            The forum is maintained by the technical coordinator of the research cluster, who will remove any inappropriate contributions to the discussions.

            Please note the following!

            Everyone who enrolls in this course, is automatically subscribed to this forum and will receive e-mail notifications of every post on the forum. If you do not wish to be subscribed to the forum, you can click Unsubscribe from this forum in the top right corner of the forum overview page.

            If you do not want to receive too many notifications, you can adapt the forum settings for your account. To do so, follow these steps:
            a. Click on your username, which is always visible in blue in the bottom left corner of the page. You will go to your personal profile.
            b. Click Edit profile.
            c. Click Show advanced.
            d. In the field E-mail digest type you can now choose one of the three options: standard - notification of every post; daily an e-mail of all posts in full text; daily one e-mail with the titles of all posts. If there are no posts at all, you won’t get a summary e-mail either.
            e. You can also adapt other settings if you like.
            f. Scroll down and choose Update profile to activate your new settings.

            If you want to give feedback on the functioning of the forum or group page in general, then you are most welcome to leave a post in the discussion Technical feedback. The SENSE team will keep an eye on this discussion and will try to process your feedback as good as possible.