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Professor Frans Berkhout

Professor Frans Berkhout

fb-150Executive Dean, Faculty of Social Science & Public Policy and Professor of Environment, Society and Climate


Tel: +44 (0)20 7848 1619

Faculty of Social Science & Public Policy
King's College London
Bush House North East Level 2
Strand Campus 
London WC2B 4BG



Frans Berkhout is Executive Dean of the Faculty of Social Science and Public Policy and Professor of Environment, Society and Climate at King’s College London. He joined the Department of Geography at King’s in 2013.

From 2013 to 2015 he was Director of the Future Earth programme, based at the International Council for Science (ICSU) in Paris. Before that, Professor Berkhout directed the Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM) at the VU University Amsterdam in The Netherlands and led the Amsterdam Global Change Institute.

He has also held posts at SPRU (Science and Technology Policy Research), University of Sussex, and was Director of the UK Economic and Social Research Council’s Global Environmental Change and Sustainable Technologies programmes.

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

Among other advisory roles, Professor Berkhout was a lead author in the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (2014) and a member of the Social Science Panel of the Research Excellence Framework (REF2014) of the Higher Education Funding Council for England. He sits on the editorial boards of Research Policy, Global Environmental Change, Journal of Industrial Ecology, Current Opinion on Environmental Sustainability, Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions and The Anthropocene Review.

Professor Berkhout’s early research was concerned with the economic, political and security aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle. His more recent work has been concerned with science, technology, policy and sustainability, with a focus on climate change.

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 has extensive research, research management and research training experience across a number of fields.  His early research was concerned with the economic, political and security aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle and radioactive waste management. His more recent work has been concerned with science, technology, policy and sustainability, with a focus on climate change.

His main current research activity is in the PATHWAYS project (2013-2016, funded under FP7 of the European Commission) which is investigating the dynamics of transitions in socio-technical systems, including energy, transport and agro-food systems in Europe.


2013-2016 Exploring transitions pathways to sustainable, low carbon societies (PATHWAYS), European Commission FP7, €3,609,000

2010-2014 The governance of climate adaptation, Dutch Knowledge for Climate programme, €4,400,000

2010-2014 Experimenting with sustainability in India and Thailand, Dutch NWO/WOTRO, €700,000

2010-2013 European responses to climate change: deep emissions reductions and mainstreaming of mitigation and adaptation (RESPONSES), European Commission FP7, €4,114,000

PhD topics
  • Climate change adaptation: measuring effectiveness
  • Limits to climate change adaptation: a risk approach
  • Governance responses to ‘loss and damage’ as a result of climate change
  • The geography of socio-technical transitions
  • Linking analytical approaches for analysing socio-technical transitions
  • Experimenting for sustainability transitions

For a full list of publications, please see Professor Berkhout's research profile.


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