Bruno Turnheim

Bruno Turnheim


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Personal profile

Research interests (short)


  • Socio-technical transitions (historical, current, future)
  • Environmental problems and sustainability
  • The geography of transitions
  • Urban transformation dynamics
  • Path dependence, lock-in, and the destabilisation of industry regimes
  • Science, technology and society
  • Energy systems, Mobility systems, Food systems


  • Multi-dimensional theories of change and stability
  • Co-evolution of societal domains (economy, policy, technology, society and culture)
  • Longitudinal case studies, pattern recognition, process theory
  • Historical approaches in social sciences

Biographical details


My research is focussed on sustainability and the role of technological innovation in addressing related challenges. I am particularly interested in research on sustainability transitions – the reorientation of socio-technical trajectories towards more societally desirable directions.

My research trajectory to date is highly multidisciplinary, stemming for the combination of technical education and literacy with advanced studies in the social sciences, including environmental systems analysis, environmental economics, environmental and technology policy, philosophy of science, sociology of technology and innovation.

I am currently a post-doctoral research associate at the Department of Geography at King’s College London, where I work on sustainability transitions within the EU FP7 PATHWAYS project, with Prof. Frans Berkhout. The PATHWAYS project is focussed on exploring transition pathways to sustainable, low carbon societies by mobilising multiple existing analytical approaches. I am also involved in other research projects and networks, such as the GREEN.EU project (Green Growth) and the INOGOV research network (Innovations in Climate Governance). I am also a visiting fellow at SPRU (University of Sussex), associated with the Sussex Energy Group (SEG).

Within the Geography department, I am involved in King's Climate activity hub, and the Urban Futures research domain. I also act as representatitve for research associates on departmental boards.

I obtained my PhD at SPRU (Science and Technology Policy Research), University of Sussex in 2012, under the supervision of Profs. Frank W. Geels and Andy Stirling. My PhD dealt with ‘The destabilisation of existing regimes in socio-technical transitions’, combining theoretical exploration with a number of case studies covering British energy industries from 1880 to the present. My PhD research was part of the DESTABLE research project, funded under an ERC grant.

Current research

  • Postdoctoral associate on the PATHWAYS project:
  • Longitudinal case study research (electricity, heating, mobility sectors) in selected European countries
  • Conceptual and methodological integration of research approaches to sustainability transitions
  • The governance of sustainability transitions
  • The geography of transitions

Academic degrees

  • PhD, SPRU, University of Sussex (2008-2012), under the supervision of Profs. Frank W. Geels and Andy Stirling
  • MSc in Industrial Ecology, Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden (2005-2007)
  • MSc Eng in General Purpose Engineering (major of Chemistry and Environmental Sciences), Ecole des Mines de Douai, France (2002-2007)

Research interests

I am primarily interested in the intersection of technological change and environmental problems. My research to date has been focussing on areas related to long-term socio-technical change, innovation, sustainable transitions, and the role of normative problems in science and technology trajectories more broadly.

Within the PATHWAYS project, I focus particularly on opportunities for bridging between different analytical approaches to sustainability transitions: techno-economic modelling, socio-technical transition studies, and participatory action research. This kind of integrative work promises advances in terms of understanding and governance of sustainability transitions in the making.

My empirical research is focussed on transitions in the energy, mobility and agri-food domains. It focuses on different scales (national, regional, local), and time horizons (past, present, prospective), but usually involves processes unfolding over extended periods of time (decades).

I rely principally on longitudinal case study research, narrative methodologies and process tracing.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 9 - Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action

External positions

Research Fellow, University of Manchester

1 Sept 2017 → …

Visiting Fellow, University of Sussex


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