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A Multiscalar and Multiagent Modelling Framework for Assessing Sustainable Futures in a Globalised Environment (MULTIMODE) (PHASE II)

Research project SD/TA/01B (Research action SD)

Persons :

  • Prof. dr.  HENRY DE FRAHAN Bruno - Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL)
    Coordinator of the project
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 15/12/2008-30/6/2011
  • Dr.  ENGELEN Guy - Vlaamse Instelling voor Technologisch Onderzoek (VITO)
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 15/12/2008-30/6/2011
  • Dr. Ir.  VAN HERZELE Ann - Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB)
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 15/12/2008-30/6/2011
  • Prof. dr.  WHITE Roger - Memorial University of Newfoundland (UNNEWF)
    Financed foreign partner
    Duration: 15/12/2008-30/6/2011

Description :


With increasingly globalised economies, sustainable development becomes an even greater challenge to both policy and science because new opportunities and unknown risks created by globalisation are unevenly distributed between regions and between people. Policy should be able to provide measures to help different regions and communities benefit from these opportunities and cope with these risks in a sustainable manner, and science should take the challenge to contribute to design such measures. This research project aims to contribute to this challenge by developing an integrated modelling framework. Such framework will be implemented through a multiscalar & multiagent model (MultiMode) in which national impacts of global changes trickle down to the local communities through the adaptive decisions of institutions at the regional, provincial and communal levels.

Project description


The overall aim of MultiMode is to promote sustainable development in Belgium in a globalised context through the development of an integrated, multi-scale modelling framework of economic activities and their associated land uses. The modelling framework will combine top-down and bottom-up models that address both urban and rural land use. Given the importance in spatial terms of agricultural land use, a specific focus will be dedicated on the sustainability of farming practices. Specifically, Multimode aims to generate multi-scale indicators of social, economic and ecological sustainability by integrating the empirical knowledge generated from different models.


MultiMode has four closely interconnected work packages (WP): a meta-model of policy options and global scenarios (WP1), a multi-scale constrained cellular-automata (CA) model (WP2), a landscape scale agent-based model (ABM) of decision rules (WP3), and stakeholder dialogue and feed-backs (WP4). The policy options and scenarios at the global and European scale from WP1 will provide inputs to the CA of the WP2 and ABM of the WP3 as drivers of land use change and socio-economic decision-making processes. The meta-model of WP1 will use look-up tables and/or simple statistical functions of relevant global drivers (e.g., socio-economic, technological, demographic, climatic, etc.) and European policies (e.g., the Common Agricultural Policy, the European Spatial Development Perspective, the Water Framework Directive, etc.). The constrained CA of WP2 will generate spatio-temporal changes in the social, economic and natural environment, including land use, at different spatial scales. Results from the CA will provide the boundary conditions for the ABM of WP3 by describing the spatial dynamics in the environment of the agents (e.g., farmers). The novelty of the ABM in assessing future sustainability rests in its ability to capture the behaviour of individual decision agents in adapting to the changes in their environment. The ABM will also represent the institutional decision-making and planning at different administrative levels. Its results will be able to feed-back the CA about the impacts of their adaptive decisions on changes in the social, economic and natural environment. The feed-back mechanism between the CA and ABM will improve their practical use for assessing the indicators of sustainable development. In the ABM, adaptive decisions from agents are represented in social behavioural models (SBM). These SBM will be developed from the knowledge elicited through stakeholder dialogue and feed-backs in WP4. They will summarise both rational (e.g., economic optimisation) and sub-rational (e.g., imitation, social comparison) cognitive strategies of the agents. Moreover, the institutional and policy analysis in WP4, which will feed the CA and ABM models, will consider the links and interactions among the institutional agents as well as the influence of organisational hierarchy and subsidiarity on the sustainability of the individual agents and their environment.

Interaction between the different partners

Partners have complementary scientific and empirical knowledge that are required to successfully design, develop and apply the Multimode modelling framework at the different administrative levels in Belgium and carry out case studies in different regions of Belgium. The allocation of work responsibilities of the partners in each work package is determined by their expertise required to successfully complete the work package objectives (see activities of partners below).

Link International Programmes

MultiMode is of great relevance to the objectives and activities of the International Human Dimensions Programme (IHDP) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Expected results and/or Products

1) Integrated and validated models including meta-model of policy options and global scenarios, multi-scalar cellular automata model at the national, regional, provincial and communal levels, landscape scale agent-based models for the case study areas in the Flemish and Walloon regions, and behavioural models for selected farming communities in these regions.
2) A series of documented model runs consisting of time-series sustainability indicators and maps at the European, national, regional, provincial, communal and farm levels. These runs will be made publicly available at the end of the project in a digital form on the project website, a FTP-server or a CD-Rom.
3) Reports or working papers with full documentation of the work carried out, the main results, and recommendations for further analysis.
4) Minimum of two publications in internationally refereed journals or books by each partner.



1) Prof. Bruno Henry de Frahan, Unité d’économie rurale (ECRU), Faculté d'ingénierie biologique, agronomique et environnementale, Université catholique de Louvain, Place Croix du Sud 2 - Bte 15, B-1348 Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium
Tel: +32 (0)10 473673, Fax: +32 (0)10 473675, E-mail:
Project coordinator
Responsible for WP1 – Meta-Model of Policy Options and Scenarios

2) Dr. ir. Ann Van Herzele, Vrije Universiteit BrusselVakgreop Menselijke Ecologie, Laarbeeklaan 103, B-1090 Brussel, Belgium
Tel: +32 (0)2 4774924, Fax: +32 (0)2 4774964, E-mail:
Responsible for WP4 – Stakeholder Dialogue and Feedbacks

3) Guy Engelen, Lic., Vlaamse Instelling voor Technologisch Onderzoek (VITO), Expertisecentrum Integrale Milieustudies, Boeretang 2002400 Mol, Belgium
Tel: +32 (0)14 335907, Fax: +32 (0)14 331185, E-mail:
Responsible for WP2 – Multi-scale Constrained Cellular-Automata Model

4) Prof. Roger White, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Department of Geography, St John's, Nfld A1B 3X9, Canada
Tel: +1 (709) 737.8193, Fax: +1 (709) 737.4000, E-mail:
Collaborate with VITO on WP2

Contact Information

Lilibeth Acosta-Michlik
Unité d'économie rurale (ECRU)
Faculté d'ingénierie biologique, agronomique et environementale
Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL)
Croix du Sud 2/15
B-1348 Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium
Tel: 0032 (0)10 473676
Fax: 0032 (0)10 473675
E-mail :

Follow-up Committee

Noelle Aarts - Wageningen Universiteit – The Nederlands
André Bauche - Direction Générale de l'Agriculture
Jeroen Cockx - Ministerie van de Vlaamse Gemeenschap
Alain Henry - Bureau fédéral du Plan
Lucien Hoffmann - Centre de Recherche Public - Gabriel Lippmann - Luxembourg
Marielle Smeets - SPF Santé publique, Sécurité de la Chaîne alimentaire et Environnement
Jean-Marie Tricot - Centre Culturel du Brabant Wallon
Cédric Van De Walle - SPP Développement durable
Erika Vander Putten - Vlaamse Milieumaatschappij
Georgios Vlahopoulos - European Commission

Documentation :

A Multiscalar and Multiagent Modelling Framework for Assessing Sustainable Futures in a Globalised Environment : final report (MULTIMODE)  Acosta-Michlik, L. - Engelen, G. - Van Herzele ... et al  Brussels : Federal Science Policy, 2012 (SP2457)
[To download]  [To order

Un cadre de modélisation multi-échelle et multi-agent pour évaluer des futures durables dans un environnement globalisé : résumé des résultats  Acosta-Michlik, L. - Engelen, G. - Van Herzele ... et al  Bruxelles : Politique scientifique fédérale, 2012 (SP2458)
[To download

Een Multischaal-Multiagent modelleerraamwerk voor de afweging van Duurzame toekomstvisies in een Geglobaliseerde Leefomgeving : samenvatting van de resultaten  Acosta-Michlik, L. - Engelen, G. - Van Herzele ... et al  Brussel : Federaal Wetenschapsbeleid, 2012 (SP2459)
[To download

A Multiscalar and Multiagent Modelling Framework for Assessing Sustainable Futures in a Globalised Environment : summary of the results  Acosta-Michlik, L. - Engelen, G. - Van Herzele ... et al  Brussels : Federal Science Policy, 2012 (SP2460)
[To download

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