Research

Research Field

How can the transformational power of the digital transformation be leveraged for sustainable development? The emerging research field «Information and Communication Technology for Sustainability (ICT4S)» aims to answer this question by combining knowledge and methods from various disciplines. The international community of researchers working in this field publishes mainly in the proceedings of the annual  ICT4S conference.

Research Methods

The methods we are using in our inter- and transdisciplinary projects include:

  • Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)
  • Technology Assessment (TA), expert-based and participatory approaches
  • Agent-Based Modelling (ABM)
  • System Dynamics (SD) modelling
  • Design Science Research (DSR) approaches
  • Quantiative and qualitative empirical methods
  • Game Design and Gamification methods

Research Areas

Klick on the area title to see our projects and related publications and media response.

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. How can we measure and reduce the footprint of ICT?

Project Links

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

Project LIFESAVING

Sources of Variation in the Life Cycle Assessment of Smartphones and Tablets (with University of Namur) Main article (2020)

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

Final report and press release (2018, in German)

Main article (2018)

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

Main article (2018)

PhD thesis Esther Thiébaud (2017)

Green Software: Optimizing software development and deployment for resource conservation (with Empa, IZT Berlin, Borderstep Institute, German Environment Agency) Final report (2015, in German)
Measuring the Energy Consumption of the Internet (with Empa, SWITCH, Cisco)

Main article (2013)

Methods Article (2014)

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

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

Contact: Jan Bieser

Report in preparation

Newspaper article (2020)

Wenn Algorithmen für uns entscheiden: die Herausforderungen der künstlichen Intelligenz (with DSI, Empa, TA-SWISS)

Contact: Clemens Mader

Project page 

Final report (Book, open access)

Media article

Sustainable Business Models in the Digital Sharing Economy

Contact: Maria J. Pouri

Project page

DESRIST Conference paper (manuscript)

ICT4S Conference paper (2020)

EnviroInfo Conference paper (2018)

Journal article (2018)

Using a Time Use Approach to Understand the Impact of Digitalization on the Energy Intensity of Lifestyles

Contact: Jan Bieser

Project page

Phd thesis Jan Bieser (2020)

Conference paper (2018)

Conference paper (2019)

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

Contact: Jan Bieser

Final report (2017)

Removing Barriers to Videoconferencing as a Means of Reducing CO2 Emissions

Contact: Lorenz Hilty

Series of case studies

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

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

Contact: João Gonçalves

Project website (SNF)

Project website

Conference contribution (2019)

An Agent-based Model of Wood Markets in Switzerland (with WSL)

Main article (2019)

PhD thesis Stefan Holm (2018)

DPMFA: Dynamic Probabilistic Material Flow Modelling (with Empa)

Main article (2017)

PhD thesis Nikolaus Bornhöft (2017)

Exploring the Effects of ICT on Environmental Sustainability: From life cycle assessment to complex systems modeling (with KTH Stockholm)

Main article (2016)

PhD thesis Mohammad Ahmadi Achachloui (2015)

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 big data 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 (pTA) processes (with Empa)

Contact: Clemens Mader

Initial article (2019, in German)

Conference presentation (in English)

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

Contact: Matthias Huss

Project website

Journal article (2018)

Media article (2018)

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)

Contact: Joachim Scholderer

Project website

GARUSO: Stakeholder Participation Beyond Organizational Limits (with Empa)

PhD thesis Martina Kolpondinos (2018)

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