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Digital Solutions for a Sustainable Future

Our society is living beyond the regenerative capacity of the biosphere. Simultaneously, the world around us is turned into a data-driven and connected system of sensor and network technologies. We are evermore able to observe and understand the complex relationships between human behavior and the natural environment. For instance, we can estimate that in 2019 Earth Overshoot Day (the illustrative calendar date on which humanity's resource consumption for the year exceeds Earth’s capacity to regenerate those resources that year) was end of July, the earliest date ever.

However, incumbent as well as emerging firms struggle to put digital technologies (e.g., platforms, sensors, blockchains, etc.) to good and environmentally sound use, and adapt or scale their business models to these pressing societal needs. While business models of large incumbent firms, which often foster unsustainable linear material flows of resource extraction, processing, consumption, and disposal, face challenges of inertia and conflicting economic and environmental goals, innovative sustainable ideas of social start-ups, which for instance aim at more circular material flows by promoting sharing, reuse, or recycling, have not yet become widely established due to scaling issues.

We invite research students to engage with issues of sustainability in the digital age. Our research in this area covers the design of digital solutions for sustainability, the study of the impact of digital technologies on sustainable business models and society at large, and research on the negative environmental effects of digital technologies (e.g., e-waste). Considering the breadth of these topics, we actively support students in narrowing down a feasible research question early on. Based on a network of existing industry partnerships, we further encourage students to conduct their thesis research in collaboration with industry partners. Master or bachelor thesis research in this area can involve literature reviews, empirical research (e.g., case studies, surveys, experiments), and design-oriented research (e.g., design prototypes). Topical areas are among others:

  • Digital technologies and sustainable business models
  • Digitalization and the circular economy
  • Digital eco-nudging
  • Design of information systems to support environmental sustainability