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About The UNSW Digital Grid Futures Institute

The problem we're taking on

The world is in the throes of an energy transformation, driven by the need to transition from fossil fuels to sustainable energy. Electricity systems of the future will be vastly different from the past, dominated by new technologies and business models, increasingly digitalised and highly complex.

Market design, policy, regulations, legal processes, cyber security, and politics are lagging behind with advances in technologies, and energy technology choices having multi-generational implications for people and economies. The consequences of fragile electricity systems are high: rising prices, rolling blackouts, security issues, and delays to emissions reductions.

These technologies and issues are global, and solutions could benefit remote communities as well as urban areas, particularly the 1.3 billion people currently living without access to electricity.

What we do

The UNSW Digital Grid Futures Institute brings together UNSW's elite researchers and major partners across industry, government, research institutions and the community to advance the blueprint for future energy systems globally.

The Institute's research is interdisciplinary in nature. Rather than addressing a technological challenge in silo, our approach draws together experts from across all UNSW Faculties to ensure we address complex problems in a holistic manner. Our investigators span the breadth of all subjects including Art & Design, Arts & Social Sciences, Built Environment, Business, Engineering, Law, Medicine and Science.

We also partner with industry, research institutions, government and the community to ensure our research delivers real world impact, and ensure that we apply our expertise to deliver meaningful solutions.

The Institute engages in a wide range of activities beyond just research to ensure we are looking beyond incremental change, and are securing the very best future for the energy ecosystem and society. This includes school outreach programs, continuing professional development, and high impact events spanning niche audiences to large community events.

Our focus ensures we deliver long range value for generations to come.

About UNSW Futures

Humanity is entering the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The next twenty years will generate more knowledge than the last two thousand. At the same time, society faces profound environmental, social, and economic challenges. The accelerating rate of technology development in the 21st century means that research to address society’s most pressing challenges will need to harness disruptive, large scale, and transdisciplinary approaches. UNSW Futures brings together researchers from all disciplines to develop tangible, real world solutions spanning the technological, economic and social domains.

UNSW Futures provides a unique platform for addressing humanity’s major challenges by facilitating cross-faculty and cross-disciplinary work, driving innovative approaches to research, and acting as a beacon for internationally renowned researchers.

A Key Enabler for UNSW’s Strategy 2025
The UNSW Futures framework is a key enabler for Strategy 2025 goal of facilitating greater interdisciplinary collaboration. By building a culture of collaboration and knowledge sharing across disciplinary boundaries, breaking down barriers to the formation of collaborative partnerships and explicitly rewarding collaborative behaviour in career development pathways, UNSW Futures provides a platform for undertaking research capable of addressing complex, social challenges.

Each Futures Institute was established to address a “wicked” problem, from future-proofing global energy, to transforming manufacturing, harnessing the potential of cellular genomics and enabling optimal ageing for individuals and society. These complex challenges will not be solved through science and technology alone, but through cooperation with researchers from the social sciences, economics, law, and design together with industry, government and the community.

The UNSW Futures framework encourages researchers to engage with industry, government and community stakeholders throughout the research lifecycle to ensure solutions are fit for purpose, and maximise the uptake of research in policy, legislation, industry and community practice.

Read more about UNSW's Strategy 2025 here.


What is a wicked problem?
Wikipedia defines a wicked problem as: "In planning and policy, a wicked problem is a problem that is difficult or impossible to solve because of incomplete, contradictory, and changing requirements that are often difficult to recognize. It refers to an idea or problem that cannot be fixed, where there is no single solution to the problem; and "wicked" denotes resistance to resolution, rather than evil. Another definition is "a problem whose social complexity means that it has no determinable stopping point". Moreover, because of complex interdependencies, the effort to solve one aspect of a wicked problem may reveal or create other problems."

Learn more about wicked problems

How is the Institute's research different from other energy grid research?
Our research goes beyond the technical solutions. It considers the full spectrum of implications and brings in different stakeholders and perspectives to ensure that solutions deliver real impact.

"The pathway to impact, as defined by the ARC is" ...the contribution that research makes to the economy, society, environment or culture, beyond the contribution to academic research."

What faculty does your Institute belong to?
UNSW Futures is a unique platform - it brings together all UNSW Faculties to solve society's complex problems. UNSW Futures Institutes report to the UNSW Division of Research. The UNSW Digital Grid Futures Institute involves investigators and projects spanning all UNSW Faculties.