Sustainability banner

NTNU Sustainability. Illustration.

New Strategic Research Areas

Strategic Research Areas 2014-2023. New Strategic Research Areas starting in 2024.

Photo green superhero over the city

Green superhero over the city. Photo.

Knowledge for change

Knowledge for change

NTNU Sustainability

Overcoming the grand societal challenges of our time will require new thinking and new knowledge. That is the motivation of NTNU Sustainability, which is one of four strategic research areas at NTNU for the period 2014-2023.

The programme brings together the best minds from a range of disciplines to create the knowledge needed by society to understand and change unsustainable patterns of behaviour and development. NTNU Sustainability aims to be an international leader. 

NTNU’s research on sustainable development of society includes environmental, economic and social aspects in the broadest sense. 


This is one of the recent initiatives coordinated by NTNU Sustainability; a package of 11 interdisciplinary research projects including 47 PhD and Postdoc fellows, for a better systems understanding related to transformative changes for sustainability. Please explore this initiatives people and research content here - SusRes@NTNU.

Mini calevent portlet

Upcoming activites

Research Strategy

Research Strategy

NTNU Sustainability consists of several core partners from research environments that excel within the field of environmental sustainability. In addition, other actors are affiliated partners on a project basis. Until the end of 2018, the program will focus on four main areas of research. To secure strategic interdisciplinary collaboration, each of these main areas should combine elements of research across three interlinked dimensions:

– Research on innovative, methods solutions and technologies
– Research on modelling, analysis and environmental impact assessment
– Research on behavior and governance for realizing improvement potential

Research areas

Research areas

Changes in land use and consumption of goods and services leads to increasing pressure on biolodiversity and ecosystem services. Climate distruptions, pollution and overharvesting of resources are drivers that increase this pressure. To maintain biodiversity and sustain the ecosystem services our societies depend upon, a well coordinated societal effort is necessary within politics, technology, economics and consumer behavior. NTNU Sustainability will research the effects of anthropogenic effects on biodiversity to contribute to well informed decision making. The target is to understand how political, economic and social change processes and conflict of interest affect nature, and which measures will prevent and stop loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services. Central research topics are nature-based solutions, methods and technologies for monitoring, valuation and modelling.

Competence areas: Biology, natural history, geography, economics, archeology and cultural history, sosiology and politics, ethics, industrial ecology, architecture, urban planning.

The leader of the research area A is Anders Finstad.

The sustainable development goals call for better nutrition, shelter, and health care to improve the welfare to billions in developing countries while cutting emissions and land use to protect the climate and life on land and in the oceans. Reconciling these conflicting goals is only possible through improved resource efficiency and a fair sharing of resources across the planet and with future generations. The circular economy, material-efficient design, sharing of goods and new models of service provision and ownership can contribute to sustainable production and consumption. Resource efficiency applied to industries such as materials production, product design and manufacturing, transport, marine and maritime, waste management and recycling. Environmental analysis can contribute to show how society’s energy use and material flows affect nature, society, and economy, and how this can be balanced with available resources. Material flow analysis, life cycle analysis, information technology and systems thinking can be used to shape solutions in production and consumption and end of product life with a minimal environmental footprint.

Competence areas: Low emission technology, material science and engineering, 3D-printing, industry 4.0, behaviour change, product design, environmental analysis, economic analysis, indicators, multi criteria analysis related to sustainability, entrepreneurship, production management and systems engineering. 

More about Research area B

The leader of the research area B is Edgar Hertwich

Climate change is one of the largest global challenges of our time. To maintain temperatures below the two degree target, a two-sided approach is necessary. Firstly, emission reduction is necessary to reduce human impact on climate and environment, and secondly adaptation of human habitat to become resilient towards changes following climatic distruptions. The methods to achieve climate change mitigation and adaptation are measures to change consumer behavior and increased efficiency in industry, transport and urban environments. Real emission reduction is important, hence climate action should be taken based on research on actual consumer behavior and decision making. Climate adaptation largely concerns reinforced or adjusted infrastructure to include smarter and nature-based solutions in built environments. Examples can be distributed energy, water management and green roofs and facades.

Competence areas: Industrial ecology, urban planning, urban history and heritage, built environment, transport, information technology, geography, sosiology, politics, social science, pshychology, cultural studies.

The leader of the research area C is Tomas Moe Skjølsvold.

By 2050 it is expected that 70 per cent of the global population will live in cities. The most efficient way to achieve sustainable development will therefore be targeted planning for smart solutions that lead to low emission cities. A common denominator in diverse urban environments will be holostic systems, high quality of life and functionality services, housing and transport for the inhabitants. Growing economies has a particularly large potential for smart solutions, since infrastructure and urban planning can be implemented from an early stage. Since energy consumption and emission levels are largely determined by urban planning, both new built environments and restructuring of old infrastructure will be necessary. A smart cities approach will facilitate sustainable economic growth and social advancement in a broad specter of urban environment profiles.

Competence areas: Architecture, urban planning, urban history and heritage, built environment, transport, information technology, geography, sosiology, politics, social science, pshychology, cultural studies. 

The leader of the research area D is Annemie Wyckmans.

Core partners

Core partners

The biology cluster at NTNU consists of the following actors:

Center for Biodiversity Dynamics (CBD) is a Centre of Excellence (CoE/SFF) funded by the Research Council of Norway. The goal of CBD is to analyse dynamics of biological systems in time and space, and to identify general patterns which can be used to predict changes in biological diversity. This will lead to better understanding of how human impact, land use changes and climate change affects to biological diversity.

Contact: Ivar Herfindal
More information about CBD

Environmental Toxicology group (ENVITOX) at the Department of Biology. The group’s research focuses on levels and effects of pollutants in organisms, with main focus on ecotoxicology, ie. effects of pollutants on wildlife organisms. Aims for ENVITOX research is to investigate potential ecological relevant effects of pollutants. This is knowledge that is important for ensuring sustainable ecosystems, sustainability of healthy food resources for humans and sustainable production systems. Such insight can secure human health and welfare in both urban and rural environments.

Contact: Bjørn Munro Jenssen
More information about ENVITOX

The Ecology group at the Department of Biology is hosting the largest EU project at NTNU at the moment, AfricanBioServices. There is a close connection between the Ecology group and the above mentioned Centre of Biodiversity Dynamics (CBD). Close collaboration with external research partners makes this a dynamic and interdisciplinar research team. The Ecology group provides research capacity on biodiversity of bryophytes, marine environments, freshwater, tundra and forest ecology.

Contact: Bente Jenssen Graae

This research group is connected to the newly established Centre for Service Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Finance Technology, which is hosted by the Department of International Business at NTNU in Ålesund. The main objective of the centre is to conduct research that supports public and private decision makers to promote business innovation. The centre works in close collaboration with the Green Value Creation group at the Department of Industrial Economics and Technology Management and the Network for Green Growth at NTNU Ålesund. Research topics of particular attention are environmental life cycle management; life cycle perspectives and value chains; harmonised reporting systems; product requirements and product documentation and green procurement.

Contact: Hans Solli-Sæther and Annik Magerholm Fet
More about Business Transitions to Sustainable Development (BTSD)

CeBES is a research centre established by NTNU, SINTEF, NINA and NIBIO, hosted by the University Museum. The main research areas are anthropogenic effects on biodiversity and ecosystem services; Climate change, land and water use; Historical sustainability perspectives; Monitoring, valuation and modelling. Furthermore, the political, economic and social change processes as measures to stop loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services are central to connect these fields. CeBES aims to synthesise science that integrate natural and social perspectives on sustainable use and conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem services. A strong interface with policy makers enables knowledge dissemination to promote the transition to environmental sustainability.

Contact: Reidar Andersen and Anders Finstad
More information about CeBES

CenSES – “Centre for Sustainable Energy Studies” – is a Centre for Environment-friendly Energy Research (CEER/FME) funded by the Research Council of Norway. The main objective of CenSES is to conduct research that supports public and private decision makers in strategic decisions and policies that will promote environmentfriendly energy technologies and lead to a sustainable energy system. Research at CenSES that contributes particularly to environmental sustainability are the cutting-edge research areas ”policy making and transition strategies”, ”energy systems and markets” and ”energy scenario development”. Most of CenSES’ projects are interdisciplinary by nature, hovering in the borderland between disciplines and between social sciences and technology. The research centre has strong connections to industry, public offices and research partners.

Contact: Asgeir Tomasgard
More information about CenSES

This research cluster has close collaboration with the similar cluster in Social sciences and Economics, and contains the following actors:

Programme for Applied Ethics (PAE) is a cross-facultary programme funded with support from the Research Council of Norway. PAE aims to contribute to the development of competence in applied ethics in both research and education. The programme will prioritize the research topics related to environmental ethics, democratic governance of natural resources, global justice and future generations, and responsible research and innovation (RRI). Affiliated partners of PAE are the research areas ”Environmental history” and ”Media, the environment, and climate change”. The first area gathers researchers from both the Department of Historical Studies and the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies of Culture, while the latter is the topic of ongoing research at the Department of Art and Media Studies.

Contact: May Thorseth
More information about PA

Centre for Energy, Environment and Climate (CEEC) at the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies of Culture was established to coordinate the growing research activity within energy consumption, environmental governance and behavior. The centre collaborates with other social sciences (like psychology, economy and political science), humanities (philosophy and applied ethics), architecture and engineering. The centre specializes in research topics related to sustainable consumption and user practices; user engagement and climate policies; public perceptions of and engagement with climate change and sustainable energy; as well as smart and sustainable cities.

Contact: Marianne Ryghaug and Marius Korsnes
More information about CEEC

This research cluster has close collaboration with the similar cluster in Social sciences and Economics, and contains the following actors

Consumption, Environment and Traffic group (CET) at the Department of Psychology conducts research on complex consumer decisions and behavior in the context of physical/ technological, social and governance structures. Resource consumption, energy use, natural and biological systems, transport, investments, environmental communication and behavior change processses are central topics. The CET group merges competencies from social sciences, humanities, natural science and engineering. CET also participates in the European Energy Research Alliance (EERA).

Contact: Christian A. Klöckner
More information about CET

Energy, Environment and Sustainable Development group (EESD) at the Department of Sociology and Political Science targets research on governance, institutions, management and public policy as tools to achieve sustainable development. Researchers at EESD are especially strong in the field of energy politics and policy at both national and international levels. The group specializes in renewable energy, carbon capture and storage (CCS), energy security, sustainable marine fisheries and aquaculture. It is also strong in linking climate distruptions with civil war and conflict, with historically strong ties to the Peace Research Institute in Oslo.

Contact: Jennifer L. Bailey

Deptartment of Geography at the Faculty of social sciences and technology management explores the interface between nature and society, and covers a wide range of fields across human and physical geography. Department of geography engages in debates on central problems and specializes in research concerning environmental sustainability. In particular, strategic research areas are climate, vulnerability, adaptation and mitigation; environment, resources and management; and mobility, transnationalism and inequality.

Contact: Karoline Daugstad
More information about department of Geography

Department of Economics and NTNU Business School explore economic and ecological interactions, combining economic theory with sustainable cultivation of biodiversity and ecosystem services. Fields of speciality related to environmental sustainability are bioeconomics, natural resource economics, environmental economics and microeconomics. Researchers in these departments actively persue public debate, and a number of the staff members act as advisors to Norwegian policy makers.  

Contact: Anders Skonhoft (Dept of Economics) and Jon Olaf Olaussen (NTNU Business School)
More information about Department of Economics and NTNU Business School


The Inustrial Ecology Programme at the Department of Energy and Process engineering has facilitated interdisciplinary research and education on environmental sustainability at NTNU since the late nineties. IndEcol is an internationally established research group with scientists that contribute actively to major global initiatives like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Strong focus on methodological advancements and applied outcomes, as well as strong national and international networks, has made IndEcol a highly successful contributor in research projects that apply environmental sustainability analysis in a wide range of topis, from resource extraction and recycling, to energy systems, built environment, ecosystem management, lifestyle and governance. The Research Council of Norway recently ranked IndEcol as one of the top three technology research groups in Norway.

Contact: Anders Hammer Strømman
More information about IndEcol

NMRC is located at the Department of  Manufacturing and Civil Engineering at NTNU in Gjøvik. This interdisciplinary research centre synergizes research, education and industries with the aim to improve the competence of Norwegian production systems. NMRC uses environmental, economic, social and technological perspectives in complex manufacturing systems. The research on data-driven optimized solutions to improve efficiency and reduce side effects gives added value to the Norwegian manufacturing sector. Selected research topics are especially important in connection with environmental sustainability. Systematic modelling of production systems (e.g. additive manufacturing process, 3D printing) and interactions between the production system, built environment and ecosystems is important.

Following this, it models environmental impacts of the activities of production systems with life cycle perspectives in an ESG context. Another core topic is digitalization of the production process cross supply chain (e.g. automobile component production) to enhance the efficiency of the production process and information for decision making. Lastly, Big Data driven optimization of the technology solutions (e.g. zero fail production, new materials and processes) for multi objectives decision making for sustainability is central.

Contact: Lizhen Huang
More information about NMRC

This cluster includes leading actors from a number of faculties and departments, as well as systematic collaboration with Trondheim Kommune and other partners. The cluster consists of the following actors:

NTNU Smart Sustainable Cities at the Faculty of Architecture and Design was initially formed to increase the success rate of high level EU project proposals with extensive international collaboration requirements. In 2017 – 2018, the group will develop a new programme for smart urban transformation and co-creation, connecting ambitious environmental targets with high quality life and stakeholder participation. SSC has developed leading roles in EU fora and initiatives.  

More information about Smart Sustainable Cities

Zero Emission Neighborhoods in Smart Cities (ZEN) is a Centre for Environment-friendly Energy Research (CEER/FME) funded by the Research Council of Norway. ZEN builds on the experiences of the previous centre Zero Emission Buildings (ZEB), now expanded to district level and with more interdisciplinary issues. ZEB / ZEN is already collaborating with Smart Cities NTNU and the Building Protection Center at NTNU.

More information about FME ZEN

NTNU Wood is a recently established knowledge centre initiated by NTNU and TreSenteret. The centre aims to strengthen the bonds between education and research within wood-based built materials at NTNU with industries within wood and forestry. It also coordinates contributions to ARENA Skog Innovation Centre and the Leadership group on Norwegian Wood Industry.

More information about NTNU Wood

Research Centre for Architectural Conservation and Transformation was established in 2016 to become a knowledge resource for the conservation and development of protected built environments for education, management and construction industry. The centre cooperates with private and public sector, other universities and research communities nationally and internationally with expertise in the sustainable use of built cultural heritage.

More information about the Centre

The urban planning environment at the Faculty of Architecture and Design is represented by the Urban, Physical Planning and Urban Ecological Planning areas. These are relevant contributors to achieve inclusive, safe and sustainable cities and settlements.

Contact: Annemie Wyckmans

Forum of Young Scholars in Sustainability

Forum of Young Scholars in Sustainability

The Forum of Young Scholars in Sustainability (FYSS) is an interdisciplinary network for young researchers at NTNU. The purpose of FYSS is to promote the concept of sustainable development by sharing ideas, engaging in activities, and developing projects in collaboration with both internal and external stakeholders.
Visit the FYSS website

NTNU's Strategic Research Areas 2014–2023

NTNU's Strategic Research Areas 2014–2023