The First Deep Transition was the Industrial Revolution. This is still happening –  and it began 250 years ago.

The Second Deep Transition, a Sustainability Revolution, must happen now.

This Research Project looks at how this can happen.


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What is the Deep Transitions Research Project?

Since the Industrial Revolution, the world has experienced various surges of economic and social development. This has led to modern societies as we know them today. In the Deep Transition project, we explore underlying drivers for the establishment of these modern societies, but from an unusual angle.  We explore how shared values and rules are adopted by many people and organisations. Traditionally, these values and rules embrace fossil fuels; linear wasteful production; centralised, globalised mass-production and consumption. This has led to a number of ‘socio-technical systems’ or infrastructures for the provision of food, health, mobility, energy, communication, education, finance that are unsustainable.  This is the First Deep Transition. At the end of the twentieth century, the characteristics of these systems have become the root cause of both the climate and inequality crises.

The Deep Transition research project looks at how these rules, values and systems were made, and can be unmade.

How can we work towards a Second Deep Transition? We examine if there is change and fragmentation away from the old values and rules – ‘extract, use, dispose, carbonize, scale, globalize, centralize’ – to new ones. Are we seeing fresh approaches in business, civil society and policymaking that have at their heart the principles of sustainability, circular economy, social and environmental justice?

What role will business, social movements, governments, the military, international organisations, civil society, and even, war and other catastrophes, play?

Are the global and national systems beginning to realign under a fresh set of standards, values and rules that would create a different trajectory? A Sustainability Revolution, equal to the Industrial Revolution? Not Industry 4.0 but Sustainability 1.0…

This research project takes a long term perspective. It is based at the Science Policy Research Unit at the University of Sussex Business School, the Utrecht University Centre for Global Challenges and is funded by James Anderson from the investment bank Baillie Gifford. It seeks to answer if the world is changing fundamentally and irrevocably onto an entirely new path; one marked – The Second Deep Transition.


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Professor Johan Schot explains Deep Transitions thinking. He is founder of the Deep Transition Research Project & author (w. Dr Kanger) of the Deep Transitions theory papers. Previously, he was Director of the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU), and is currently Professor in Comparative Global History at the University of Utrecht’s Centre for Global Challenges.

Spotlight Features

Deep Transitions: Emergence, acceleration, stabilization and directionality

Industrial society has not only led to high levels of wealth and welfare in the Western world, but also to increasing global ecological degradation and social inequality. The socio-technical systems that underlay contemporary societies have substantially contributed to these outcomes. This paper proposes that these sociotechnical systems are an expression of a limited number of…

The Deep Transition Futures Project: Investing in Transformation

  The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) estimates that over the next 15 years an annual investment of $6.9 trillion in energy, transport, building and water systems is necessary to meet the requirements of a 2-degree scenario as set in the Paris Agreement. Even higher investments will be needed to address the loss…
Blog - February 25, 2021

Grassroots Innovations for Sustainable Development – A DT Dialogue with Johan Schot and Adrian Smith

According to Smith and Seyfang (2007), the term ‘grassroots innovations’ describes networks of activists and organisations that generate novel bottom–up solutions for sustainable development –solutions that respond to the local situation and the interests and values of the communities involved. This differs from more mainstream greening practices in the sense that grassroots initiatives operate in…

Episode 6: Why we need visionaries and intermediaries: The case of the EU, Circular Economy and Ellen MacArthur.

Deep Transitions
Episode 6: Why we need visionaries and intermediaries: The case of the EU, Circular Economy and Ellen MacArthur.
What does a British sailor have to do with the EU directives supporting the circular economy? How likely are we to move away from linear production, and what role will international organisations play in this shift? Find out with Florian Kern in our final podcast this series: Why we need visionaries and intermediaries: The case of…