Research

How can the transformational power of the digital transformation be leveraged for sustainable development? The emerging research field now called «Sustainable Digitalization», «Digitalization for Sustainability (D4S)» or «Information and Communication Technology for Sustainability (ICT4S)» aims to answer this question by combining knowledge and methods from various disciplines.

The ISR group integrates methods of Computer Simulation, Technology Assessment (TA), Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), and Design Science Research (DSR) to advance  this transdisciplinary research field​ in the following areas. Each research area forms a project line that evolves over time.  

Research Areas

Klick on the area title to see the projects in the research area and related publications.

The Footprint of Digital Technologies


Digital technologies have made enormous progress in energy efficiency and miniaturization. Because the ICT sector has been growing even faster than the resource efficiency of its technology, the overall footprint of data centers, network infrastructure and end-user devices is still increasing in term of energy, material resources and CO2 emissions. How can we measure and reduce the footprint of ICT?

Project Links

LIFESAVING: Extending the lifespan of mobile devices (NRP 73, with ZHAW)01.06.2019 - 31.08.2022

Contact: Jan Bieser

Project website

Article

Sources of Variation in the Life Cycle Assessment of Smartphones and Tablets (with Louis-Philippe Clément and Quentin Jacquemotte, University of Namur), 2018-2020

Contact: Lorenz Hilty

Final article

Sustainable Software Design: Developing Criteria for Resource-efficient Software (with Leuphana University of Lüneburg, University of Applied Sciences Trier, German Environment Agency), 2013-2018

Contact: Lorenz Hilty

Article
Press release

Final report 

Critical Metals in Electronic Equipment: A methodology to model end-user stocks and flows (with Esther Thiébaud, Empa and TU Clausthal), 2012-2017

Contact: Lorenz Hilty

Article

Final PhD thesis

Green Software: Optimizing software development and deployment for resource conservation (with Empa, IZT Berlin, Borderstep Institute, German Environment Agency), 2012-2015 

Contact: Lorenz Hilty

Final report

Measuring the Energy Consumption of the Internet (with Empa, SWITCH, Cisco), 2009-2013

Contact: Lorenz Hilty

Main article

Methods article

Pathways to a Sustainable Digital Society


The digital transformation is changing our patterns of production and consumption. How can we assess these changes with regard to sustainable production and consumption? And how can we support the societal discourse on opportunities and risks of digital technologies?

Project Links

Pathways to Sufficiency, 2018-2023

Contact: Lorenz Hilty

Project page 

The Digital Sharing Economy and Sustainability, 2018-2023

Contact: Maria J. Pouri

Project page

Article

Auswirkungen digitaler Produkte auf den Klimaschutz (with SWICO, Swisscleantech), 2022

Contact: Jan Bieser

(not yet published)

Digitalization for Sustainability (with TU Berlin et al., Bosch Foundation), 2021-2022

Contact: Lorenz Hilty

Project page

Article

Next generation mobile networks – Problem or solution for climate protection? (with Empa, Swisscom, Swisscleantech), 2020

Contact: Lorenz Hilty

Final report

Newspaper article

Wenn Algorithmen für uns entscheiden: die Herausforderungen der künstlichen Intelligenz (with Markus Christen, Clemens Mader, Empa, et al.; TA-SWISS), 2018-2020

Contact: Lorenz Hilty

Final report

Using a Time Use Approach to Understand the Impact of Digitalization on the Energy Intensity of Lifestyles, 2016-2020

Contact: Jan Bieser

Article

Final Phd thesis

Opportunities and Risks of Digitalization for Climate Protection in Switzerland (with WWF, Swisscom), 2017

Contact: Jan Bieser

Final report

Modelling and Simulation for Sustainability


Computer-based modelling and simulation methods have been used for decades to improve the understanding of complex systems, from early socio-economic "System Dynamics" models to models of social metabolism (Material-Flow Analysis, MFA) and Agent-Based Models (ABM). How can we apply and improve modelling and simulation methods to support education, systems thinking and decision-making for sustainability? 

Project Links

Agent-Based Modelling of the Diffusion of Food-Safety Related Information Among Smallholder Farmers in Tanzania, 2022-2024

Contact: Matthias Huss

Project at ZKSD

Master's thesis

Post-fossil Cities: Developing a simulation game to find pathways to the post-fossil Swiss city (SNF NRP 73, with Empa, NTNU Trondheim, UCS Zurich), 2018-2022

Contact: João Gonçalves

Project website

Project website (SNF)

EnviroInfo Conference

An Agent-based Model of Wood Markets in Switzerland (SNF NRP 66, with Stefan Holm, Empa and WSL), 2012-2014/2018

 

Main article

Final PhD thesis

DPMFA: Dynamic Probabilistic Material Flow Modelling (with Nikolaus Bornhöft, Empa), 2012-2017

Main article

Final PhD thesis

Computational frameworks to increase effectiveness and efficiency of data collection in Life Cycle Assessment (with Jürgen Reinhard, Empa), 2012-2017

Final PhD thesis

Exploring the Effects of ICT on Environmental Sustainability: From Life Cycle Assessment to Complex Systems Modeling (with Mohammad Achachlouei, KTH Stockholm), 2011-2015

 

Main article

Final PhD thesis

Supporting Sustainable Development with Data and Tools


Data and software tools supporting discourse and decision-making provide great opportunities for sustainable development. How can we exploit bid data, machine learning and interactive tools for sustainable development?

Project Links

LOTA: Landscape of Opinions for Technology Assessment – A method and a software tool to support participatory Technology Assessment processes (with Clemens Mader, Empa, and David Pinezich), 2019-2023

Contact: Lorenz Hilty

Initial article

Pilot application in TA project

SafeConsume: Change consumer behavior to reduce exposure to hazards and decrease risk through effective and convenient tools and products, information strategies, education, and inclusive food safety policy (EU Horizon 2020, with 32 partners in 14 countries), 2018-2022

Contact: Joachim Scholderer

Project website

Food Price Volatility: Political Causes, Effects on Hunger and Poverty, Sustainable Solutions (SNIS, with CCRS, ETHZ, Helvetas, University of Berne, UN-FAO, DEZA), completed 2016

Contact: Matthias Huss

Project website

Journal article

Media article