The Sustainability Innovation Campus is Launched

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Minister Olschowski announces the pilot projects Image: Jürgen Gocke
Minister Olschowski announces the pilot projects Image: Jürgen Gocke

The fifth Innovation Campus in Baden-Württemberg aims to provide scientific guidance for the transformation to a sustainable lifestyle

How can cities cope with the consequences of climate change? How can we ensure that the food offered by refectories and staff canteens is healthy and uses resources efficiently? And what motivates citizens to live more sustainably? It is the role of this new Innovation Campus, the fifth in Baden-Württemberg, to find effective and directly-applicable answers to questions like this - together with partners from society, industry, science and politics. Baden-Württemberg is providing an initial one million euros to establish a Sustainability Innovation Campus (ICN), which is enshrined in the coalition agreement, and its first three projects. The green light was given today at the University of Freiburg. The Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) is the second initial partner.

"Our new Innovation Campus will turn the Upper Rhine region into an international beacon of sustainability research. The University of Freiburg and KIT are bundling their competencies and infrastructure to this end. A network of partners from practical sectors is involved in the research and knowledge transfer - so findings can rapidly be implemented. Concepts that are developed, tried and tested at the Sustainability Innovation Campus will later also be transferrable to other city-regions," said Science Minister Petra Olschowski on Wednesday (24  January) in Freiburg.

The existing four dedicated to the forward-looking issues of Artificial Intelligence, Quantum Technology, Mobility and Life Sciences have already boosted research and knowledge transfer in the federal state. "The new Sustainability Innovation Campus will continue the success story and contribute findings from this extremely important area of research to society - for a livable future in Baden-Württemberg and beyond," said Science Minister Petra Olschowski. The goals of the ICN are innovative advances that result in changes in city planning, the food system and the resources transition - towards renewable energy. At the same time, the areas of climate protection, conservation of resources and well-being are all interlinked.

The research activities at the new Innovation Campus will as a whole contribute to the sustainable development of society - with due consideration of economic aspects, the common good, and social justice. Since 2023 the initial partners University of Freiburg and   have been developing a concept for the new Innovation Campus on the theme of ’Transformations for city-regions of the future - climate protection, conservation of resources and well-being’.

"The University of Freiburg is pleased to see the Innovation Campus at the Upper Rhine with its thematic focus on sustainability and its transformative and transdisciplinary character is now taking shape. Current and future projects have the potential to help shape the transformation into a sustainable society," said the University of Freiburg’s Rector, Professor Kerstin Krieglstein.

"At KIT almost all the scientific disciplines contribute to sustainability research - because we can only tackle challenges such as the climate crisis, and the energy and transport transitions by looking at their interactions. In addition, with appropriate measures we encourage our students to develop knowledge, awareness and a sense of responsibility for sustainable action," said Professor Oliver Kraft, Acting President of KIT. "At the Sustainability Innovation Campus we combine our experience and competencies with that of science, industry, politics and society, to develop solutions together that help us to secure our natural livelihood."

Pilot projects at the Sustainability Innovation Campus

The first three ICN projects were announced and introduced at the kick-off event in Freiburg. Researchers and partners from practical sectors have jointly assessed these projects, which will now be subjected to a reality check at the Sustainability Innovation Campus.

  • Researchers from the Renature + Stadtgrün  project want to discover how green space and city trees contribute to adapting urban habitats along the Upper Rhine rift valley to climate change. This will include, for example, identifying suitable tree species and analysing the ecosystem performance of trees. Together with local residents and city planners, they will develop measures to preserve urban green space.
  • Another project concerns the Transformation of the Food System to increase sustainability. The researchers are investigating how group catering - for example in refectories and staff canteens - can be rethought in a way that conserves the climate and resources, and at the same time promotes health.
  • The Visions of Sustainability  project will present a series of films about sustainability together with the Kommunales Kino Freiburg. The researchers and their partners want to find out whether this kind of film can help citizens to develop a sustainable way of life, and if so how.
  • There will also be exploratory studies besides these initiatives.

    Shaping transformation into a sustainable society together

    "Even while we were preparing for the Innovation Campus, there was an intensive and productive exchange with many of the stakeholders from the Upper Rhine region, who want to help shape the transformation into a sustainable society. With the launch of the Sustainability Innovation Campus we now have an overarching institutional structure for our network and a framework for the content of these highly promising projects," said Daniela Kleinschmit, Vice Rector for Internationalisation and Sustainability at the University of Freiburg. 

    Network of initial partners

    The network of the Sustainability Innovation Campus also has other scientific partners, such as the Freiburg University Medical Center, the Sustainability Center at the University of Freiburg, the Fraunhofer Institutes in Freiburg and Karlsruhe, and the Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences (Baden-Württemberg Institute of Sustainable Mobility, BWIM). In addition to this are notable companies from the Upper Rhine region, organisations such as the Chambers of Industry and Commerce (IHK) for the southern Upper Rhine region and for Karlsruhe, the Freiburg Chamber of Trades and Crafts and TechnologieRegion Karlsruhe, as well as from the fields of research and business development and, from the housing sector, Bauverein Breisgau eG. The network is rounded off by the Cities of Freiburg and Karlsruhe and stakeholders from civil society (including NGOs such as Ernährungsrat Freiburg & Region e.V.).

    About the Innovation Campus models

    The Baden-Wuerttemberg Ministry of Science, Research and the Arts funds Innovation Campuses in strategically important areas of research. These are areas of structural change for Baden-Württemberg, where the value they create will be of fundamental importance, reflecting as they do the key strategic areas of the state government.

    The five Innovation Campuses that now exist unite the strengths of science (higher education and non-academic establishments), industry and society. This will enable new potential to be opened up and the use of synergies. In this way the state government is creating international beacons on subjects which are already strengths in Baden-Württemberg.

    The following Innovation Campuses are currently being funded:

    Artificial Intelligence: Cyber Valley Innovation Campus in Stuttgart/Tübingen (since 2016)

    Mobility and Production: Mobility of the Future Innovation Campus in Karlsruhe/Stuttgart (since 2019)

    Health and Life Sciences: Health and Life Science Alliance Innovation Campus in Heidelberg/Mannheim (since 2021)