Is Agent Based Modelling the Ideal Method to Investigate Innovations within the Water Energy Food Nexus?

Recently we finalised the development of two Agent Based Models (ABMs) for Anaerobic Digestion (AD) innovation as part of the EPSRC funded Stepping UP project. Agent based modelling was selected as the method to understand the step-change impact of the diffusion of innovation across the Water Energy and Food (WEF) Nexus. This blog revisits the characteristics of complex systems, complex systems thinking for WEF Nexus and agent based modelling for complex systems. Reflections on the development of ABMs for Anaerobic Digestion innovation are included at the end of the blog.


Understanding the future of the water, energy, food nexus

In October 2017, researchers from the University of Manchester gathered a group of 32 participants to examine the future of innovation in the water-energy-food nexus. Throughout Stepping Up we aim to involve stakeholders in our research, to better understand how innovations with benefits across the water, energy and food nexus emerge and diffuse, and how they impact upon the future sustainability of the UK.

Five fallacies of innovation, and what they mean for understanding the nexus

Exposure and interrogation of some of the common assumptions around innovation can help to flesh out the interplay between nexus study and innovation, and what this interplay means for transformation more generally.

What does the future hold for AD? A summary of two recent workshops

By engaging with a range of stakeholders, Stepping Up is seeking to understand how innovations shape impacts across the nexus of water, energy and food systems, today and into the future. This blog reports on two recent workshops exploring the future of one of our chosen innovations: anaerobic digestion (AD). 


The value of an innovation lens for nexus studies

Diversity and complexity at the nexus: Reflections from China

I was fortunate enough to participate recently in a three day workshop on the ‘Energy-Water-Climate Change Nexus in a Transitional Economy: Sustainability and Resilience’, held in Nanjing, China at the end of May, hosted jointly by Nanjing and Lancaster Universities. This blog summarises the work I presented as part of the Stepping Up project, and reflects (albeit belatedly!) on both the workshop and some of the conversations had throughout.

AD Across the Scales – How can we Make the Most of the Available Resources?

An essential part of the Stepping Up Project is engaging with stakeholders to better inform the research. On 28th March Stepping Up researchers Iain Soutar and James Suckling were invited to run a workshop as part of the ADBA (Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association) Research and Innovation Forum in London. This annual knowledge exchange event brings together actors from across the AD sector to explore present day challenges facing AD in the UK.

Special Issue of Energy and Complexity- Call for Papers

Sustainable energy systems are complex sociotechnical systems with a social network of many players that “together” develop, operate, and maintain the technical infrastructure. No single player controls the system, but their actions are coordinated through a range of institutions—informal and formal rules—and regulations. As the control is distributed among actors, the overall system behaviour (at different time scales) emerges from operating practices and characteristics, from (dis)investment decisions, and from other aspects of the players’ strategies.

Nexus-relevant innovations: Insects as a novel source of protein

A previous blog introduced four Water, Energy, Food-nexus (WEF)-relevant innovations which together form the principal focal points of Stepping Up. We will use case studies of these innovations to establish an understanding of their potential for scaling up to address WEF-nexus challenges. These innovations are anaerobic digestion, insects as a novel source of protein, and the social as well as technical recovery of value from surplus food.

Recovering the Value of Food: the Application of Technology

This blog series discusses in greater depth the rationale for selecting the particular innovations Stepping Up is interested in; Anaerobic digestion; Insect proteins, Valorisation of food waste and Diversion of surplus food. In the third of four, this blog introduces valorisation; the technical recovery of value from surplus food...


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