Navigating Deep Transitions

Industrialisation and globalisation have brought about unprecedented levels of wealth and welfare in the western world, yet these successes have come at the cost of causing devastating environmental damage and social injustice. This is the First Deep Transition – the transition that led to the development of a wide range of new infrastructures or socio-technical systems for the provision of energy, mobility, food, water, communication, education and security. Together these systems constitute an industrial modernity  that serves as the foundation of contemporary societies the world over.

As the disruptive effects of our unsustainable systems of provision have become ever-more omnipresent, global society has begun to realise the urgent need for change, as shown by global agreements such as the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The scale of change needed is nothing short of fundamentally transformational. It requires a Second Deep Transition - the unmaking and remaking of a wide range of socio-technical systems including the principles that drive these systems: mass production and consumption, exploiting fossil fuels and other resources, linear production and globalisation.

Yet translating this growing awareness of the scale and urgency of accelerating change into fundamental academic research and practical action remains one of the greatest challenges that world leaders and policymakers, consumers, civil society, companies and the finance industry are facing today. UGlobe’s flagship initiative Navigating Deep Transitions seeks to bridge this gap, undertaking cutting-edge transdisciplinary research projects to explore how to mobilise the power of system transformation to accelerate the Second Deep Transition.

Under the general theme ‘Navigating Deep Transitions', a team of researchers and support staff is investigating how research and innovation practices can contribute to transformative system change. The team designs, launches and carries out projects leveraging a range of methods and techniques, including: conceptual work, historical research, scenario design, bibliometrics, case studies, big data analysis and active experimentation. Through employing mixed methods, the research team is working in close collaboration with key stakeholders, enabling these actors to become core partners in the research process and the researchers to become co-creators of real-world impact.

As part of this UGlobe flagship initiative, the team is working on three core projects.

Deep Transitions

Deep Transitions: Deep Transitions is an innovative and ambitious global transdisciplinary research project that strives to understand how the unsustainable systems our societies are built on emerged, and how they can be unmade. The project consists of two phases, Deep Transitions History and Deep Transitions Futures, combining historical analysis of how fundamental changes unfolded in the past with looking into the future to help redirect those crucial drivers of change into a sustainable direction. The project team works with a group of private and public investors to develop a new transformative investment philosophy. Learn more about Deep Transitions here.

Deep Transitions in The Netherlands: Deep Transitions in The Netherlands consists of two interrelated projects; the first encompasses a research program on the First Deep Transition, which began with the industrial revolution. Today’s societal challenges are placed in its historical context, and we investigate the explanations of their root causes. The second sub-project is aimed at future interventions; based on the historical investigations of the initial research and in consultation with a range of societal partners investment strategies will be developed that contribute to a sustainable and inclusive society. Learn more about Deep Transitions in The Netherlands here.

Transformative Innovation Policy Consortium (TIPC)

Transformative Innovation Policy Consortium (TIPC): TIPC is a five-year programme focused on policy experimentation, evaluation, capacity building and research agenda development. An overarching ambition is to see the widespread adoption of new transformative innovation policies and practices across the globe. This transdisciplinary approach is already generating new frameworks, standards network, practices and narratives, and exploring novel ways to harness mutual policy learning between countries in the Global North and South. Learn more about TIPC here.

Uncovering Utrecht University's Transformative Potential

Uncovering Utrecht University’s Transformative Potential: By means of mapping synergies and knowledge communities within research conducted on the SDGs, this novel project strives to unlock the transformative potential of Utrecht University’s research. In the years to come, Utrecht University aims to use the SDGs as an instrument to identify challenges and potential solutions, with its education and research aimed at contributing to enhance knowledge of all 17 SDGs. The methodology and results of UGlobe’s research project can facilitate reaching this ambition and support Utrecht University in becoming a “transformative university”.  Learn more about this project here.

In addition, the research team is exploring new topics such as the co-evolution of migration and system change, the application of a Deep Transitions perspective to security issues and the building of institutions for long-term change.

Researchers and support staff carrying out the Navigating Deep Transitions flagship initiative are:

  • Oscar Romero Goyeneche
  • Jack Davies

For more information please contact Jenny Witte at