Societies depend on a continuous throughput of materials and energy required to build up, maintain and operate their material stocks (e.g. buildings, infrastructures, machinery as well as humans and livestock). This "social metabolism" can be seen as a functional equivalent of biological metabolism. Socio-metabolic research links the use of biophysical resources to social organisation, recognizing that the quantity, composition, sources and sinks of resources used, as well as the material stocks created in the process, reflect socio-economic production and consumption systems that are highly variable across time and space. 

Current industrial metabolism is a precondition for the evolution of modern societies, and at the same time associated with a plethora of sustainability challenges. Describing and analysing socio-metabolic patterns at different scales and identifying points of intervention for guiding current patterns into a more sustainable direction is a core task of this thematic area.

Core research questions:

  1. How to consistently quantify societies' material and energy flows as well as material stocks across various functional and spatial scales? What are appropriate units of measurement and aggregation?
  2. What are the differences between the levels of resource use and material stocks among countries and world regions, and how can these be explained? How to define a sustainable use of resource use?
  3. What are the causal relations between the physical and the monetary economy? How can we make this information meaningful in a social context?
  4. What are the preconditions that facilitate current industrial metabolic patterns, and what are their environmental consequences?
  5. How can expert knowledge of socio-metabolic patterns of stocks and flows gain momentum in policy? How can such knowledge be transformed into feasible strategies of decoupling or dematerialization?
  6. What impact does global trade have upon resource use and what are the environmental consequences? How can national indicators and accounting systems be adapted to consistently take ecological terms of trade into account?

Research coordinator: Helmut Haberl

Current Projects

CircEUlar - Developing circular pathways for a EU low-carbon transition

Project Leader: Dominik Wiedenhofer
Duration: 01.09.2022-31.08.2026
Funded by: Commission of the European Communities

EDITS - Energy Demand Changes Induced by Technological and Social Innovations (four projects)

Project Leader: Dominik Wiedenhofer
Duration: 09.03.2021-31.05.2024
Funded by: Research Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth

MAT_STOCKS - Understanding the Role of Material Stock Patterns for the Transformation to a Sustainable Society

Project Leader: Helmut Haberl
Duration: 01.03.2018-28.02.2023
BOKU Research Units: Institut für Soziale Ökologie (SEC) ;
Funded by: European Commission, Rue de la Loi, Brussels

TecEUS - Technology-Critical Elements in Urban Spheres

Project Leader: Ulrike Pitha (Institute of Soil Bioengineering and Landscape Construction); Sub Projectleader: Dominik Wiedenhofer
Duration: 01.02.2020-31.01.202$
Funded by: Fonds zur Förderung der wissenschaftlichen Forschung (FWF)

Finished Projects

Biodiv Vienna - Vienna's Biodiversity Footprint: A multi-scale analysis outlining options to reduce urban pressures on biodiversity

Project Leader: Fridolin Krausmann
Duration: 01.03.2018-28.02.2021
Funded by: Vienna Science and Technology Fund

CE_SouthAfrica - Assessing economy-wide prospects for a more sustainable circular economy in South Africa (Material Flow Analysis) 
Project Leader: Dominik Wiedenhofer
Duration: 01.01.2020-30.09.2021
Funded by: South African Department of Science and Innovation (South African government)

FOOD - The Future of Urban Food - Scenarios of urban agro-food systems and their eco-economic impacts for the case of Vienna

Duration: 01.01.2018-31.12.2020
Project Leader: Bernhard Freyer (Division of Organic Farming); Sub Projectleader: Krausmann Fridolin
Funded by: Vienna Science and Technology Fund

DESIRE - Development of a System of Indicatiors for a Resource efficient Europe

Keywords: Ressourceneffizienz
Project Leader: Ass.Prof. Mag.Dr. Nina Eisenmenger
Duration: 01.12.2012 - 01.07.2016
Funded by: Europäische Union

UNEP - International Resource Panel (jährliche Projekte)

Keywords: Material Flows, Ressourcenproduktivität, Assessment, Ressourcen
Project Leader: Marina Fischer-Kowalski
Duration: 01.02.2008-31.05.2016
Funded by: Bundesministerium für Land- und Forstwirtschaft, Umwelt und Wasserwirtschaft (BMLFUW)

GLOMETRA - Die globale metabolische Transition: Lanfristige Trends und Muster im gesellschaftlichen Material- und Energieverbrauch

Keywords: Transitions, nachhaltige Entwicklung für Europa, Extensifikation, Energieflussanalyse
Project Leader: Univ.Prof. Dr. Fridolin Krausmann
Duration: 01.10.2008 - 30.11.2013
Funded by: Fonds zur Förderung der wissenschaftlichen Forschung (FWF)

EU-Resource Policy: Framework Contract

Keywords: Ressourcennutzung, Ressourceneffizienz
Project Leader: Univ.-Prof. Dr. Marina Fischer-Kowalski
Duration: 03.07.2009 - 31.12.2012
Funded by: Bio Intelligence Service S.A.S.

MFA EU 27 Daten und Methoden, Consultingvertrag für Eurostat

Keywords: MFA
Project Leader: Dipl.-Ing. Willi Haas
Duration: 01.01.2001 - 30.06.2012
Funded by: Eurostat

NEUJOBS - Employment 2025: How will multiple transitions affect the European labour market

Keywords: sozialer Metabolismus, sozial-ökologische Transition
Project Leader: Dipl.-Ing. Willi Haas
Duration: 01.02.2011 - 31.01.2015
Funded by: Europäische Union

ÖRME - Rohmaterialäquivalente des Österreichischen Außenhandels (jährliche Projekte)

Keywords: RME, Materialnutzung, Handel, Ressourcennutzung, outsourcing
Project Leader: Nina Eisenmenger
Duration: 01.10.2007-31.05.2015
Funded by: Bundesministerium für Land- und Forstwirtschaft, Umwelt und Wasserwirtschaft (BMLFUW)

WWWforEurope - Towards a New Growth Path: Welfare, Wealth and Work for Europe

Keywords: sozial-ökologische Transition
Project Leader: Univ.-Prof. Dr. Marina Fischer-Kowalski
Duration: 01.04.2012 - 31.03.2016
Funded by: Europäische Union