Philip Vergragt

Philip Vergragt

Philip Vergragt is a research professor at the Marsh Institute at Clark University and a Professor Emeritus of Technology Assessment at Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands. He has co-authored more than 80 scientific publications and three books. His research focuses on sustainable technological and social innovations in transportation, energy, and housing; grassroots innovations; socio-technical transitions; sustainable consumption and production; and technology assessment of emerging technologies. In the last five years, he has co-founded SCORAI, the North American (and European) Sustainable Consumption and Action Initiative, the North American Roundtable on Sustainable Production and Consumption (NARSPAC), the Worcester Housing, Energy, and Community group (WoHEC), and the Global Research Forum on SPaC.

Dr. Vergragt obtained a PhD in Chemistry from the University of Leiden in 1976.
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Tellus Publications (Selected)

Backcasting for Sustainability: Introduction to the Special Issue

Philip Vergragt, J. Quist

This article introduces the special issue of Technological Forecasting & Social Change on "Backcasting for Sustainability." It provides a background of backcasting and positions it within the wider context of future studies. It offers reflections on the diversity and variety of backcasting studies and experiments, as presented in the ten papers for this special issue, and concludes by formulating a future research agenda.

Sustainable Mobility: From Technological Innovation to Societal Learning

Philip Vergragt, Halina Brown

This paper addresses a persistent and worsening societal dilemma worldwide: the ecological unsustainability of the automobile as the primary means for providing personal mobility. The solution to this problem will require input from all segments of society and must include technological innovation; changes in the physical infrastructure and land use; and social, cultural, and institutional changes. This paper argues for a fundamental rethinking of the entire system of personal mobility and lays out some of the necessary steps forward.

Originally published in Journal of Cleaner Production 15, no. 11-12 (2007): 1104-1115, available at

Genetic Engineering in Agriculture

Philip Vergragt, Halina Brown

This paper proposes a novel approach to including the public in evaluating the impacts of food and agricultural biotechnology modeled after the growing practice of sustainability reporting by companies. The most visible among those, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), when implemented properly, includes a wide range of stakeholders, including the financial institutions, companies, NGOs, and civil society, in an interactive multi-stakeholder discourse and collaboration. The reporting exercise would open the discussion about the R&D around new GMO products, and could mitigate potential adverse effects in an early stage (Constructive Technology Assessment). We specifically propose initiating a broadly based societal initiative aimed at developing of a new sectoral supplement of GRI Guidelines, specifically designed for the food and agricultural biotechnology sector.

How Technology Could Contribute to a Sustainable World

Philip Vergragt

Philip Vergragt examines how and which technologies could contribute to a sustainable society envisioned in the Great Transition scenario. He develops a broad picture of future technological developments in a Great Transition and explores a vision and associated events, pathways, mechanisms, and choices to help realize this vision.

Essay #8 in the GTI Paper Series: Frontiers of a Great Transition

Past and Future of Backcasting

Philip Vergragt, J. Quist

This paper deals with the past, present, and future of backcasting. After reviewing the origin of and developments in backcasting since the 1970s, it concludes that several varieties can be distinguished and that a shift has been made to broad stakeholder participation and towards a focus on realizing follow-up and implementation. The paper then proposes a methodological framework for participatory backcasting.

Originally published in Futures 38, no. 9 (November 2006): 1027-1045, available at

Technological Change and Regulation in the Car Industry

Philip Vergragt, Paul Nieuwenhuis, Peter Wells

The choices we have made over the past 200 years about modes and technologies of transportation have brought us unprecedented global interaction and, in many respects, increased personal freedom. However, all this mobility has come at a cost to society, to the economy, and to the environment. This special issue of Greener Management International attempts to inform the broad and systemic change required in the wider concept of automobility by exploring the role of the regulator, in particular in the context of more recent co-operative and partnership approaches with private-sector stakeholders, particularly the automotive industry.

Originally published in Greener Management International 47 (Autumn 2004): 5-11.