Navigating Deep Transitions

Illustration of a transformed world

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.

People pushing the globe from sustainable towards unsustainable

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.

Core projects

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

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.

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.

Transformative Innovation Policy Consortium (TIPC)

Transformative Innovation Policy Consortium (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.

Uncovering Utrecht University's Transformative Potential

Uncovering Utrecht University’s Transformative Potential is a novel project that strives to unlock the transformative potential of Utrecht University’s research by means of mapping synergies and knowledge communities within research conducted on the SDGs,. 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 UU's Transformative Potential.

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.

Meet our team

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


For more information please contact the project assistant: Nicky Wunderlich,


We currently collaborate with both private and public investors, the former ranging from small family endowment offices and impact investors, to multi-billion-dollar pension and other funds (such as Baillie Gifford). We anticipate over the coming years to continue working with investors of all types, as well as engaging with a wider range of other partners, including social movements and firms. We’re starting up a project with Oxfam that looks at the relationship between investing and activism and social movements.