Chris Ryan has worked for many decades across various areas of science and technology research, environmental policy and design, and in projects that have spanned the community sector, academia, government, international agencies and business.
His community sector work includes the creation of a number of networks of ‘alternative’ and ‘radical’ technology in the UK in the 1970’s. From 1970 to 1976 in the UK he was a member of the council of the British Society for Social Responsibility in Science and editor of its journal ‘Science for People’. He was also on the editorial boards of two journals, Undercurrents and Radical Science Journal.
On return to Australia he was active in the creation of several community and alternative technology associations and worked for ABC radio national’s Science Program. In 1978, a community plan for environmental and socially-useful work led to the formation of the Centre for Research into Environmental Strategies (CERES), still existing today in the Melbourne Suburb of Brunswick. Professor Ryan was author of the original prospectus for the formation of CERES in 1979, whilst a lecturer in Environmental Design at RMIT University. That prospectus was produced as a community submission to a Victorian government and business Summit on Unemployment. Chris remained a Director and Office bearer of the CERES Association from 1978 to 1988. In its first years of occupation of the current site, the CERES project functioned as an Urban Field Station for RMIT University, for students and researchers from architecture, building, environmental design and environmental engineering.
In academic work he completed a PhD at the University of Melbourne in 1974. Later, at RMIT University in 1983, he co-founded (with the head of social science, Dr Norman Blaikie) the first multi-disciplinary undergraduate socio-environmental degree program that spanned two faculties (Social Science and Architecture and Design). That program ran from 1984 to 1997. He became foundation professor of Design and Sustainability at RMIT in 1990, and Director of the National (Key) Centre for Environmental Design (CfD) from 1989-98. In this position he directed the National EcoReDesign program, an ARC Linkage and ERDC project, working with 20 Australian companies to develop a new eco-design methodology and bring new greener products into the market. During his period as Director of the CfD he served on several EU bodies responsible for Eco-Design programs and acted as liaison between the Australian EcoReDesign program and the Dutch Eco-Design project of TUDelft and TNO. He was visiting eco-design academic at Domus Academy in Milan in 1994 and Visiting professor in the newly created Design for Sustainability department in the faculty of industrial design engineering at TUDelft in 1995.
Professor Ryan left Australia in 1997 to take up a position of Professor, and subsequently Director, of the International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics (IIIEE) at Lund University in Sweden. That Institute, focuses on new sustainable systems of production and consumption, with a research program closely linked to the formation of government policy, innovation and industry strategy.
Professor Ryan returned to Australia from Sweden in 2002-3 to work with RMIT’s Lab 3000 researching the potential for Information and Communications Technology (ICT) to contribute to eco-innovation. The outcomes of that research appeared in his book Digital Eco-Sense: Sustainability and ICT, a new terrain for innovation. In parallel with that research, he initiated an international “Eco-Sense” program linking University design schools in Melbourne, Italy, Netherlands, UK and Hong Kong, to explore new possibilities for transformative eco-innovation, utilising the emerging capacities of information and communications technology and the internet.
Professor Ryan has been a consultant to the UN Environment Program (UNEP), coordinating and writing its Global Progress Report on Sustainable Consumption for the Johannesburg UN world summit in 2002. With colleagues from the Netherlands (TUDelft) he worked on the UNEP Eco-Design industry program, acting as joint editor of D4S (Design for Sustainability – a Step by Step Guide) published by UNEP in Paris in 2006.
He joined the University of Melbourne in 2006 as Professor and Co-Director of the Australian Centre for Science Innovation and Society (with professor Jim Falk) and as Director of the Victorian Eco-Innovation Lab (VEIL). VEIL built on the work of the CfD and the international Eco-Sense program. It was originally funded as part of the Victorian government’s sustainability strategy, 2006. He served as Professor and Director of VEIL as a design-action-research unit within the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning from 2006-2017. From 2013-2017 Professor Ryan directed a national project funded by the CRC for Low Carbon Living: the Visions and Pathways 2040 project with three universities and the cities of Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. He is a Theme leader on Sustainable Cities for the Melbourne Sustainable Societies Institute.
Professor Ryan is co-founder (with Dr Michael Trudgeon of RMIT) of an international program, Eco-Acupuncture, working with Australian and EU cities on transformation for decarbonisation and resilience. He is a member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Industrial Ecology (Yale University), Visiting Professor at TUDelft and a member of the Visiting Academy of the IIIEE at Lund University.
Professor Ryan’s honorary appointments have included membership of two boards of the Australia Council, the council of the Australian Academy of Design, the Victorian government’s Design Board and the Victorian government’s Steering Committee for Clean Technology. He was a board member and deputy chair of the Banksia Foundation. He has been curator of the Victorian Deakin Lectures in 2009 (Climate and Innovation: Building the low Carbon Economy Now) and chair of the Premiers Design Awards.
He is currently a member of the Governing Council and Academic Board of the Photography Studies College, Melbourne.
Professor Ryan has worked with many eco-design related businesses and research groups in Australia and Europe, including: the Politecnico di Milano Italy; the UK Design Council; Schiavello (Australia); Transurban (Australia); Electrolux (Europe and Asia Pacific); Volvo Penta, (Sweden); Brio (Sweden); Body Shop (Australasia); Blackmores (Australia); Isle Property Development Group (Australia).