Rob Raven - Professor of Institutions and Societal Transitions

Prof. Rob Raven

Prof. Rob Raven holds the new chair in Institutions and Societal Transitions since 1 September 2014. The designated chair is part of UU's university strategic theme of 'Institutions', the Innovation Studies research group and the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development.



Raven (1975) has a multidisciplinary research background in the fast-growing field of societal transitions. Transitions are sweeping changes in  the structure of key societal systems such as energy, mobility and food. These changes are necessary and vital in solving the major challenges of the 21 century, particularly for sustainable development.

As a PhD researcher at Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e), Raven compared the societal embedding of bioenergy in the Netherlands and Denmark. Grants from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) subsequently allowed him to extend his research to the geographic and politico-strategic dimensions of transitions in Europe and Asia. The key question connecting all his research concerns the conditions needed to enable initiatives to be scaled up and contribute to societal transitions.

Institutions and cities

Institutional change is one of the core processes of transition. At Utrecht, Raven will be focusing on the question of how institutional changes manifest in urban environments. Although increasingly important economically and politically, cities' external dependence on natural resources and food often also makes them vulnerable. His research considers the way in which new initiatives such as urban agriculture, car-sharing and energy cooperatives contribute to urban institutional change.


Raven obtained his PhD from TU/e in 2005, where he was part of the Technology, Innovation and Society Department. Prior to his appointment at UU, he worked at TU/e and at the Energy research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN), and was a visiting professor at the Toulouse University School of Management. A co-founder of the Sustainability Transitions Research Network (STRN), Raven is also the recipient of various NWO grants and international awards, including the European Association for the Study of Science and Technology's (EASST) prestigious Freeman Award. He currently chairs the NWO Energy Transitions research programme and is a regular contributor to training programmes for transition professionals, including at Erasmus University Rotterdam and the Climate-KIC.