Prof. Dr. Volker Hoffmann


Weinbergstrasse 56/58
Room WEV J 412
CH-8092 Zurich


Phone: +41 44 632 05 40

Volker Hoffmann is Professor for Sustainability and Technology and the former Head of the Department of Management, Technology, and Economics of ETH Zurich (2011-2014). He is a member of the Executive Board of the Energy Science Center at ETH Zurich and has been a co-principal investigator in a number of large-scale research projects on the energy transition (PATHFINDR, CREST, FEEB&D, IMES, CLIMPOL).

Volker Hoffmann's research at ETH Zurich centers on corporate strategies with respect to climate change and the energy transition. His work focuses on climate policy, energy policy, and innovation and uses a mix of quantitative and qualitative methods. Research results have been published in management journals such as Organization Science, the Journal of Management Studies or Research Policy, topical journals such as Climate Policy, Energy Policy or Global Environmental Change, economics journals such as Energy Economics or Ecological Economics and applied journals such as Long Range Planning, the California Management Review or the European Management Journal.

Volker Hoffmann holds a diploma in chemical engineering from ETH Zurich and a diploma in business administration from the University of Hagen, Germany. He worked as a visiting scholar at MIT where he investigated uncertainty propagation in large scale process models (group of Gregory J. McRae) and obtained his Ph.D. from ETH Zurich with a thesis on multi-objective decision making under uncertainty in chemical process design (group of Konrad Hungerbühler). Before joining the faculty of ETH Zurich in 2004, he was a project manager at McKinsey & Company where he worked on strategy development in the chemical and electricity industry, especially in the light of upcoming greenhouse gas regulations. In 2007, Volker Hoffmann was a visiting scholar at the Indian Institute of Technology in Roorkee, India, and in 2019 he was a visiting scholar at the Department of Land Economy at the University of Cambridge, UK.

During his career, Volker Hoffmann received several scholarships including a German National Academic Foundation Scholarship, an Ernest-Solvay-Scholarship, and an Exchange Fellow Scholarship of the Alliance for Global Sustainability. He also received several recognitions for his teaching, including the 2019 Golden Owl Award for the best teaching in the Department of Management, Technology, and Economics of ETH Zurich, and was a 2018 finalist for the prestigious KITE award of ETH Zurich for key innovations in teaching.

Contributions of Volker Hoffmann in this area have a focus on organizational activities and processes and investigate whether and how companies engage in sustainability. For example, a central paper concerns our general understanding of corporate sustainability (Meuer et al., 2019). Other papers investigate how firms perceive sustainability or not and whether they can draw economic advantages out of this perception (Delmas et al, 2011, Pinkse et al., 2010). A third set of papers investigates how companies build up the necessary capabilities to adjust their activities towards sustainability (Ossenbrink et al., 2019, Peters et al., 2011).

  • Delmas M., Hoffmann V.H., Kuss M. (2011): “Under the tip of the iceberg: absorptive capacity, environmental strategy and competitive advantage", Business & Society 50, 116-154.
  • Meuer, J.; Koelbel, J.; Hoffmann, V.H. (2019): "On the Nature of Corporate Sustainability." Organisation & Environment, 1-23.
  • Ossenbrink J.*, Hoppmann J.*, Hoffmann V.H. (2019): "Hybrid Ambidexterity: How the Environment Shapes Incumbents’ Use of Structural and Contextual Approaches", Organization Science, 30, 6: 1125-1393.
  • Peters N.J., Hofstetter J.S., Hoffmann V.H. (2011): "Institutional entrepreneurship capabilities for interorganizational sustainable supply chain strategies", International Journal of Logistics Management 22, 52-86.
  • Pinkse J., Kuss M.J., Hoffmann V.H. (2010): "On the implementation of a ‘global’ environmental strategy: The role of absorptive capacity", International Business Review 19, 160–177.  

Contributions of Volker Hoffmann in this area focus on modelling the interactions between energy policy and technology and their effects on the energy transition. Examples include work on how responsive policy designs can meet their targets at a lower cost (e.g., Nuñez-Jimenez et al., 2020a; 2020b), work on policy mixes and their impact on interrelated technologies (Schwarz et al., 2018), work on the impacts of uncertainty on lifecycle costs of stationary batteries (Battke et al., 2013), and work on the conditions that favor the deployment of self-sufficient decentralized energy systems (Grosspietsch et al. 2018).

  • Battke, B.; Schmidt, T.S.; Grosspietsch, D.; Hoffmann, V.H. (2013): “A review and probabilistic model of lifecycle costs of stationary batteries in multiple applications.” Renewable & Sustainable Energy Reviews, 25, 240-250
  • Grosspietsch, D.; Thömmes, P.; Girod, B.; Hoffmann, V.H. (2018): “How, when, and where? Assessing renewable energy self-sufficiency at the neighborhood level.” Environmental Science & Technology, 52 (4), 2339–2348.
  • Nuñez-Jimenez, A.; Knoeri, C.; Rottmann, F; Hoffmann, V.H. (2020a): “The role of responsiveness in deployment policies: A quantitative, cross-country assessment using agent-based modelling.” Applied Energy, Vol. 275.
  • Nuñez-Jimenez, A., Knoeri, C., Hoppmann, J., Hoffmann, V.H. (2020b): “Can designs inspired by control theory keep deployment policies effective and cost-efficient as technology prices fall?” Environmental Research Letters, 15, 4.
  • Schwarz, M.; Ossenbrink, J.; Knoeri, C.; Hoffmann, V.H. (2018): “Addressing integration challenges of high shares of residential solar photovoltaics with battery storage and smart policy designs.” Environmental Research Letters, 14, 074002.

Several contributions of Volker Hoffmann investigate the impact of energy and climate policies on firm strategies and technological change to draw conclusions about the efficiency and effectiveness of alternative policy designs. Using case study with companies as well as large-N regressions, energy and climate policy are taken as examples to improve our theoretical understanding of the mechanisms that link public policies and innovations within firms. Recent work includes investigations on the effects of technology-push and demand-pull policies (Peters et al., 2012; Hoppmann et al., 2013; Schmidt et al., 2016), on the role of learning and knowledge spill-overs between innovations and sectors (Battke et al., 2016; Stephan et al., 2017, Stephan et al., 2021) and on innovation patterns over time (Huenteler et al., 2016).

  • Battke, B.; Schmidt, T.; Stollenwerk, S.; Hoffmann, V.H. (2016): “Internal or external spillovers—Which kind of knowledge is more likely to flow within or across technologies.” Research Policy, 45:1, 27-41.
  • Hoppmann, J.; Peters, M.; Schneider, M.; Hoffmann, V.H. (2013): “The Two Faces of Market Support - How Deployment Policies Affect Technological Exploration and Exploitation in the Solar Photovoltaic Industry.” Research Policy 42:4, 989-1003.
  • Huenteler, J., Ossenbrink, J., Schmidt, T.S., Hoffmann, V.H. (2016): “How a product’s design hierarchy shapes the evolution of technological knowledge - Evidence from patent-citation networks in wind power”, Research Policy, 45: 6, 1195-1217.
  • Peters M., Schneider M., Griesshaber T., Hoffmann V.H. (2012): “The impact of technology-push and demand-pull policies on technical change - does the locus of policies matter?” Research Policy 41:8, 1296-1308.
  • Schmidt, T.S.; Battke, B.; Grosspietsch, D.; Hoffmann, V.H. (2016): “Do deployment policies pick technologies by (not) picking applications?—A simulation of investment decisions in technologies with multiple applications.” Research Policy, 45:10, 1965–1983.
  • Stephan A., Schmidt T.S., Bening C.R., Hoffmann V.H. (2017): „The sectoral configuration of technological innovation systems: Patterns of knowledge development and diffusion in the lithium-ion battery technology in Japan.” Research Policy, 46:4, 709-723.
  • Stephan. A., Diaz Anadon, L., Hoffmann, V.H. (2021): “How has external knowledge contributed to lithium-ion batteries for the energy transition?” iScience, 24 (1), 101995.
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