We study the interaction between the environment and the economy

The economic process transforms raw materials and energy into economic products and waste. The economic challenge is to maintain the resilience of the current socio-ecological and socio-safety regime. We contribute by doing excellent solution-oriented research using diverse research methods to address sustainability challenges and problems in their economic context.

We study the interactions among human and earth systems within organizational contexts, to provide a sound foundation of scientific knowledge to support decision-makers and to reduce uncertainty. We analyse environmental and sustainability issues within multiple economic sectors such as agricultural, energy, waste and security. We adopt a broad range of economic disciplines including (i) extended neoclassical economic tools and principles (environmental economics), (ii) ecosystem based thinking (ecological economics) (iii) the optimization of renewable and non-renewable resource allocation (natural resource economics), (iv) economic theory to assess the sustainable production of food and biomass (agricultural economics), (v) the supply and use of energy in societies (energy economics), and (vi) the investigation of safety and security issues (safety and security science).

We provide quantitative and independent assessments and publish scientific articles. In collaboration with several international partners we develop and carry out national and international projects. We train a new generation of researchers and students with the skills to tackle complex sustainability challenges in the future.


Research topics

A broad field of research topics are studied in the field of (i) agriculture and food, (ii) energy, (iii) sustainable production; (iv) safety and security.

A sustainable, efficient farming sector which uses safe, clean and environmentally friendly production methods is a necessity. We analyse the sustainability performance of farms considering externalities and the provision of ecosystem services and/or public goods. The economic impact of climate change on agriculture and the benefits of climate change adaptation is estimated. We study different agricultural systems in different regions (Europe, Ethiopia, Iran, South Africa).

Energy use is one of the corner stones of modern industrialized society. Traditional generation technologies have proven to have detrimental impact on the environment, making novel approaches to energy generation and consumption necessary. To that end, we study the supply and demand of energy in societies. More specific, we investigate the economics of micro-grids, demand response programs, the biobased economy, and clean technologies such as renewable energy .

Sustainable production can be defined as production in a manner that is socially beneficial, economically viable and environmentally benign over their whole life cycle. The development of clean technologies and closing loops in industrial ecosystems (circular economy) is essential. We study the economic and sustainability performance of environmental technologies and enhanced waste management solutions (including enhanced landfill mining, deep sea mining).  

We investigate safety and security topics within (multi-)organizational and regulatory contexts, from an engineering (technological), economic (organizational), and human (social) perspective. We study the way safety and security technology/software, how inherent safety can be achieved, collaboration within industrial parks, and decision-making regarding options characterized with high uncertainties and extremely low probabilities (e.g. terrorist attacks in chemical clusters or domino effects in the process industries).


Research methods

Sustainability assessment brings economic, social and environmental information together. The combination of different metrics combining environmental and economic aspects is an interesting approach to assess sustainability performance. Techno-economic assessment (TEA), life cycle costing (LCC), life cycle analysis (LCA) and cost-benefit analysis (CBA), including the valuation of externalities, are important methodological components towards sustainability assessments.

A wide range of environmental valuation methods exists. Hedonic pricing is one of the most common revealed preference methods. The Ricardian method to estimate the economic impact of climate change is also based on the concept of surrogate markets. Discrete choice modelling is commonly used as stated valuation technique including non-use values. Additional, alternative methods are developed, for example to value biodiversity using bio-economic modelling.

A techno-economic assessment (TEA) is a valid integrated technological and economic assessment method. It is essential to foster the development of clean technologies. TEA provides guidance to technology providers, and policy makers. Uncertainty can be tackled by sensitivity analysis or real option analysis.

Safety and security are studied by both quantitative techniques and qualitative research methods. Quantitative methods include statistical methods, traditional methods such as Bow Tie development and economic cost-benefit analyses, dynamic risk approaches such as Bayesian Networks (GeNie) and Petri-nets, and game-theory. Qualitative techniques encompass surveys, in-depth interviewing, and using programs such as NVivo for information processing.


Research team

Research based education

We are responsible for different courses at master level in the following faculties: (i) Faculty of Business and Economics, (ii) Faculty of Science

  • Master of Business Engineering, integration profile ‘Sustainability Engineering
    • Environmental Economics
    • Energy Economics
    • Generation and distribution of Electric Power
    • Environment sociological and economic analysis and policy evaluation
    • Integrated care systems (with focus on engineering risk management

We provide different lectures for Phd courses or seminars:

  • PHD seminar of the European Association of Agricultural Economics (Belgium, 2013)
  • Risk Management courses (2010, 2013)
  • Summer School Sustainability Evaluation (KU Leuven, 2014)
  • Engineering and Design Science Methodologies (2013, 2015)
  • Sustainability Assessments for the Low-Carbon Economy (UHasselt, UAntwerpen, KU Leuven, 2017)
  • Antwerp Leadership Summerschool (UAntwerpen, 2017)
  • Loss Prevention International Conference at the TUDelft (2019)