Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies

Located in Potsdam, Germany, the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) aims to identify and promote development pathways for a global transformation towards a sustainable society. The IASS employs a transdisciplinary approach that encourages dialogue to understand sustainability issues and generate potential solutions in cooperation with partners from the sciences, politics, the economy, and civil society. A strong network of national and international partners supports the work of the Institute. Its central research topics include the energy transition, emerging technologies, climate change, air quality, systemic risks, governance and participation, and cultures of transformation in the Anthropocene.[1]

Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies
Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies logo.svg
CategoryResearch institute
Legal structureRegistered association
Established2 February 2009
LocationPotsdam, Germany
LeadershipKatja Carson (Administration), Prof. Dr Mark Lawrence, Prof. Dr Patrizia Nanz, Prof. Dr Ortwin Renn
Fields of researchenergy transitions, emerging technologies, climate change, air quality, systemic risks, governance and participation, cultures of transformation in the Anthropocene, and sustainable development
Funding mixFederal Government (85%), State of Brandenburg (15%)
Staffapprox. 120


The IASS currently employs around 120 persons, including Fellows from over 30 countries.[2] In 2019 the Board of Directors was composed of the Institute's three Scientific Directors – Mark G. Lawrence, Patrizia Nanz and Ortwin Renn – and its Head of Administration, Jakob Meyer.[3] The IASS receives funding from the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (85%) and the Federal State of Brandenburg (15%). The Institute's research programme currently spans five areas: Democratic Transformations; Systemic Interdependencies: Nature, Technology, Society; Perceptions, Values, Orientation; Energy Systems and Societal Change; Governance for the Environment and Society. These research areas are supported in their work by a cross-cutting research area tasked with facilitating dialogue between science, policy-makers, and civil society actors.[4]

The IASS is a registered voluntary association under German law. The Institute's supervisory, governing, and advisory bodies are its General Assembly, Board of Directors and Advisory Board.


The IASS was founded in Potsdam, Germany, on 2 February 2009. German politician and environmental policy expert Klaus Töpfer was the Institute's founding director. He led the Institute as its executive director until September 2015, together with scientific directors Carlo Rubbia (June 2010 – May 2015) and Mark G. Lawrence (from October 2011).[5] At a founding symposium held under the patronage of Angela Merkel, the then Federal Minister of Education and Research Annette Schavan stated: "Under Professor Töpfer's leadership, the Institute will be able to gain international prominence and underscore Germany's strong position in this field."

The idea for the IASS was born in 2007 at the Potsdam Nobel Laureate Symposium "Global Sustainability – A Nobel Cause". The symposium brought together leading researchers and decision-makers and resulted in the publication of the widely regarded Potsdam Memorandum, which called for a concerted effort to tap into "all sources of ingenuity" to address the challenges of the twenty-first century. The memorandum urged the establishment of a new "global contract" between science and society to bring together relevant knowledge within and beyond the science system to meet challenges to sustainability arising in the Anthropocene.[6]


The IASS uses a number of publications formats to disseminate its findings and policy recommendations. These include:

  • IASS Policy Briefs – Policy recommendations and assessments
  • IASS Fact Sheets – Brief overviews of research relating to topics addressed by the Institute
  • IASS Studies – Detailed research findings addressing a central issue
  • IASS Working Paper – Interim research findings and interventions in current debates

Other publication formats include articles in scholarly journals, statements, monograhs, and edited volumes. The institute also hosts a blog on its website.


The IASS collaborates with numerous partners in Germany and abroad. Its major regional partners include the University of Potsdam, GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, a research centre operated by the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, and Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

External linksEdit


  1. ^ "IASS Potsdam - MWFK". Archived from the original on 2016-06-21. Retrieved 2016-12-06.
  2. ^ IASS Activities 2012–2013, p. 72.
  3. ^ "The Directors". Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS).
  4. ^ "IASS Research".
  5. ^ "Klaus Töpfer Bids Farewell: IASS Established as a Platform for Dialogue between Science and Society - IASS Potsdam".
  6. ^ "Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies - IASS Potsdam".

Coordinates: 52°24′21.9″N 13°4′24.4″E / 52.406083°N 13.073444°E / 52.406083; 13.073444