ISAE-SUPAERO develops a methodology to quantify the environmental impact of its research projects

Available online :

• The Research Department has built a metric to assess the ambition of ISAE-SUPAERO’s research activities in the transition towards a sustainable society.
• The evaluation reveals that more than a third (35%) of the research projects carried out at the Institute aim to have a significant impact on the environment.
• ISAE-SUPAERO wishes to make its methodology available to any interested institution.

How can the impact of research on the environment be quantified? ISAE-SUPAERO’s Research Department has commissioned a working group of teacher-researchers to examine this question. Nicolas Gourdain, Scott Delbecq, Thomas Planès and Annafederica Urbano have just developed a methodology to quantify the contribution of the Institute’s research projects to sustainable development and the environment.

"Our approach was to establish a metric to enable us to quantify the Institute’s subjects that have an impact on sustainable development. As far as we know, there was no metric at European level," points out Grégoire Casalis, Dean of Research. "And this is despite the fact that funding for research projects is often linked to their positive impact on the environment."

35% of research topics related to sustainable aerospace

The evaluation carried out at ISAE-SUPAERO revealed the strong impact of its research on environmental issues. In fact, more than a third (35%) of the projects carried out in 2024 are linked to the transition towards sustainable aerospace.

"What’s also important to note is that the other projects are not destructive: some have low environmental ambitions, while the others (often more related to upstream research) are not concerned by the issue," explains Grégoire Casalis.

Graphs quantifying sustainable development

This assessment will be repeated every year for all the Institute’s research professors. "The important thing is to show how environmental issues and sustainable development have evolved from year to year," concludes Grégoire Casalis.

The Institute now wants to make this tool available to other research laboratories.

>>> Download questionnaire

"The methodology we used may not be adaptable to all areas of research, but it does provide a basis on which to work," explains Ludmila Namolovan, Deputy Dean of Research, who led the working group.

A single questionnaire for a wide range of subjects

The evaluation method developed at ISAE-SUPAERO takes the form of a questionnaire divided into three themes: the direct environmental impact of the research project; the environmental issues addressed; any strategies and solutions implemented to reduce the environmental impact.

A coefficient is assigned to each question and an overall mark is awarded to the project based on the answers provided. "As the research topics carried out within the Institute are very diverse, we had to develop questions that could be adapted to each of them", explain the teacher-researchers who are members of the working group. "We also had to take into account the fact that some subjects have a direct impact on the environment, while others have a more indirect impact."

D2RP quantification method working group
The working group from the Research Department which developed the methodology.

In order to obtain a result that is representative of the wide range of work carried out at ISAE-SUPAERO, the methodology measures all current projects and each research project has a coefficient of 1, regardless of its importance (financial, partnership, etc.).

The teacher-researchers in the working group also took care to develop the most reliable evaluation methodology possible. "As it is a question of estimating the ambition of each research project, we have favoured a self-assessment by the researchers with spontaneous answers".

This self-assessment also enables all researchers to raise their own awareness, particularly when it comes to writing research project proposals.

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