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Professor Frans Berkhout

Professor Frans Berkhout

Professor Frans BerkhoutProfessor of Environment, Society and Climate

Tel: +44 (0)20 7848 1619

Department of Geography
King's College London   
K4L.11 King's Building 
Strand Campus 

Research Interests

  • Systems innovation: The theoretical, methodological and empirical study of change in large socio-technical systems, including energy, transport, agro-food and urban systems. The work is informed by the history, economics and sociology of technical change and is concerned with understanding and informing ‘transitions’ towards more sustainable systems of provision. My current focus of activity is within the EU-funded PATHWAYS project (with Bruno Turnheim and a new PhD student) which is aiming to bridge between modelling, transitions studies and action research approaches to understanding transition processes.
  • Climate change adaptation: Research on the incentives, constraints and limits to adaptation by organisations and other social actors. This work is informed by behavioural organisational theory and policy studies, understanding that the adaptive capacity of actors is institutionally-situated. The focus of my current work flows from my work in the IPCC on ‘limits to adaptation’ and the nascent application of a risk-based approach we developed to the problem of ‘loss and damage’ in the UNFCCC. I am interested in developing approaches to specifying limits to adaptation that may inform novel approaches to the governance of losses suffered as actors reach such limits.
  • Global resource securities: Research on the emergence of ‘systemic risks’ associated with climate change related to key global resources (food, energy, commodities). This is a new research interest would aim to build links stretching from integrated assessment and climate modelling to security and governance studies. It responds to a recent concern in global change research with ‘tipping points’ and ‘thresholds’, and aims to understand how thresholds of insecurity may emerge in critical globally-connected sectors, partly influenced by the impacts of climate change.


Frans Berkhout is Professor of Environment, Society and Climate in the Department of Geography, King’s College London and Interim Director of the Future Earth programme based at the International Council for Science in Paris.

Between 2004 and 2012 he was Director of the Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM) and the Amsterdam Global Change Institute (2010 to 2013) at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Before that he held posts at SPRU (Science and Technology Policy Research), University of Sussex (UK), and was Director of the UK Economic and Social Research Council’s (ESRC) Global Environmental Change and Sustainable Technologies programmes.

Berkhout holds a Geography BSc (University of Leeds, 1983) and a PhD in Science and Technology Policy Studies (University of Sussex, 1989). He did post-doctoral research at Princeton University (US).

Among other advisory roles, Professor Berkhout is a lead author in the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (2007) and an international member of the Research Evaluation Framework (REF) of the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). He sits on the editorial boards of Research Policy, Global Environmental Change, Journal of Industrial Ecology and Current Opinion on Environmental Sustainability.

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