Project information

Short summary

The EU FP7 project PATHWAYS, which finished by the end of 2016, was a unique project that explores the possibilities for transitions to a low-carbon, sustainable Europe. The essence of PATHWAYS is that it combines the analysis of different scientific disciplines: integrated assessment modelling, socio-technical transition analysis, and initiative-based learning. By combining and coordinating information from these different disciplines for selected cases, PATHWAYS aims at providing better policy advice for European, Member State and local policy‐makers. At the IST 2015 conference at SPRU, PATHWAYS organised a dialogue session which gives a good overview what PATHWAYS is about; this session was recorded and can be listened to via this link.


Exploring transition pathways to sustainable, low carbon societies (PATHWAYS)

In order to prevent dangerous climate change and to avoid further loss of biodiversity, the EU has set ambitious policies and strategies to move to sustainable, resource efficient, low-carbon, climate-resilient, and biodiversity rich societies. The PATHWAYS project will focus on key objectives of EU sustainability policy (moving towards a sustainable, resource-efficient, low-carbon and climate-resilient Europe). This is intrinsically linked to the success of two key transitions: 1) the energy transition and 2) the land-use transition.

Transition pathways form the central integrating concept in the PATHWAYS project. We define transition pathways as patterns of changes in socio-technical systems unfolding over time that lead to a fundamental reconfiguration of technologies, business models and production systems, as well as the preferences and behaviour of consumers. The pathways can be characterised by speed (relative to incremental change in existing regimes), depth (degree of radicality of change) and scope (number of dimensions that change in socio-technical systems).

Aim and objectives of the PATHWAYS project

The overall objective of the PATHWAYS project is to provide policy-makers and other key stakeholders with better insight in on-going and necessary transition pathways for key domains relevant for EU policy. PATHWAYS focuses on a selected set of transition domains using a combination of linked scientific approaches.The PATHWAYS project will achieve this by means of the following concrete specific objectives:

  • provide a detailed mapping of key alternative transition pathways ( In terms of its technical, economic, political and social dynamics characteristics).
  • better understand the conditions needed for the development of socio-technical systems in a way that is consistent with rapid transitions towards sustainable development goals (the conditions include descriptions of regimes, niches and landscape related to these transitions).
  • Explore how insights and activities of key actors can be harnessed (Specifically by analysing how the limitations of current policies can be overcome by a stronger focus on the involvement of different stakeholders)
  • link integrated assessment modelling, transition studies and participative action research. In order to create an integrated, interdisciplinary chain of analysis which allows to deepen the understanding of transitions towards sustainable, low carbon societal systems.
  • use the findings to inform ‘transition policies’ in the EU (Amongst others in the form of well elaborated scenarios that are based on more realistic descriptions of policies and their impacts)

State-of-the-art innovative research

Deepening (scientific) understanding of how to promote these fundamental and interrelated transitions is crucial for meeting sustainability goals. Different scientific approaches offer insight into these transitions, including integrated assessment models (IAMs), socio-technical transition studies and participative action research. This research project aims to advance the understanding of socio-technical transition pathways, which lead to the emergence of new technologies, institutions, behaviour and values. It is the PATHWAYS approach to do this by better coupling methods and tools of the involved disciplines.

A graphical presentation of the PATHWAYS concept


Work packages

  • WP1 - Integrated assessment of transitional change
  • WP2 - Dynamics of transition pathways
  • WP3 - Transition in the making: Local case studies, including participatory action research
  • WP4 - Integration and governance
  • WP5 - Dissemination
  • WP6 - Management