Learning from the Past to Shape the Future

The Deep Transitions Lab is now open. To keep up to date with the latest from the DT team, learn more about Transformative Investment and discover the lab, please visit our new DT Lab website.

Deep Transitions is an innovative interdisciplinary 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. It combines an unprecedented 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. Hence, Deep Transitions learns from the past to shape the future

A Historical Analysis of the First Deep Transition 

Deep Transitions History uncovered the rules, actors, values and external influences that have accelerated what we call the First Deep Transition – the transition that led to industrial modernity, beginning with the Industrial Revolution of the 1800s. Through untangling the very foundations of industrial societies, Deep Transitions History diagnosed the  ills of modernity from a socio-technical systems perspective and opened the doors to rethinking them, a key step towards addressing the great challenges of our time, such as climate change, loss of biodiversity and growing inequality. 

Directing the Second Deep Transition Towards Sustainability 

Deep Transitions Futures, the current phase of the project, explores the Second Deep Transition – a fundamental re-ordering of the First Deep Transition in response to the problems created by modernisation. Deep Transitions Futures uses the findings of Deep Transitions History to explore a set of future scenarios that illustrate the transformations needed to combat the great challenges of our time. These scenarios are created and debated by the Deep Transitions Futures Project Team, made up of members of the sustainability transitions research community, and a Global Investors Panel, made up of thought-leaders from the private and public investment sector. Together, they strive to develop a new signature investment strategy for transformation, termed ‘Transformative Investment’, which places sustainability and socio-technical system change front and center.

Foundational Resources


The Deep Transition Futures Project: Investing in Transformation

Jenny Witte

  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...


Deep transitions: Theorizing the long-term patterns of sociotechnical change

Carlos Virreira

Journal Article | Founding Deep Transitions Paper The contemporary world is confronted by a double challenge: environmental degradation and social inequality. This challenge is linked to the dynamics of the First Deep Transition (Schot, 2016): the creation and expansion of a wide range of socio-technical systems in a similar direction over the past 200–250 years. Extending the...


Deep Transitions: Emergence, acceleration, stabilization and directionality

Carlos Virreira

Journal Article | Founding Deep Transitions Paper 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...