At a glance
The Sustainability Innovation Campus (IC-N) is a joint initiative by the University of Freiburg (UFR) and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). Under the guiding principle “Transformations for Urban Regions of the Future: Climate Protection, Resource Conservation, and Well-Being“, the two universities are setting their sights on comprehensive social, technical, and economic innovations – along with a network of actors from science, industry, politics, administration, and civil society. Together they aim to contribute to the ‘great transformation’ towards a sustainable society.
The research and transfer activities of IC-N are based on a holistic approach: In contrast to conventional (purely) technical innovations, system innovations are combined with entrepreneurial, ecological, and social innovations, thus making social change possible in the first place. The simultaneous further development of the innovation ecosystem – a network encompassing everyone from the actors generating the ideas for innovations and those implementing them to the users – has the goal of expediting the transfer of sustainability innovations.
The idea of the innovation campus is to create a research and transformation hub for sustainability innovations – internationally visible and regionally effective. The Upper Rhine region is already being hit particularly hard by the consequences of climate change, and they will become increasingly severe in the coming years. These circumstances call for swift and targeted action.
The need for profound social transformation in the area of sustainability is also reflected in the coalition agreement of the Baden-Württemberg state government: The State of Baden-Württemberg has set itself the goal of becoming climate-neutral by 2040.
In December 2022, the Baden-Württemberg State Parliament passed the budget for the years 2023 and 2024, which includes an initial one million euros in funding for IC-N in the year 2024.
The profile of IC-N as well as the processes for selecting initial preparatory projects are currently being elaborated. The call for proposals for preparatory projects is set to be announced in summer 2023 – giving scientists from UFR and KIT their first opportunity to get involved.
Initial events for other interested actors from science, industry, politics, administration, and civil society are also planned for 2023 and 2024.
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The scientists of IC-N follow approaches of transformative and transdisciplinary sustainability science, which are characterized especially by the following five criteria:
- a comprehensive reference to sustainability,
- a solution orientation,
- interdisciplinarity based on excellent disciplinary research,
- as well as reflexivity and adaptation.
In doing so, they link engineering development work with social science issues from the outset.
The fields of innovation of IC-N – climate protection, resource conservation, and well-being – are based on the sustainable development goals (SDG for short) of the United Nations in the areas of climate adaptation and mitigation (SDG 13), resource efficiency/resource conservation (SDG 7,12,14,15) and societal well-being (SDG 2,3). At the same time, the fields of innovation are a reflection of the three sustainability dimensions economy, environment, and society. All processes, projects, and activities of IC-N are located in these areas and at their intersections. The goals of the three fields of innovation are closely interlinked and are taken into account accordingly in each case.
The application-oriented basic research conducted in the climate protection field of innovation aims to achieve climate neutrality in Baden-Württemberg by no later than 2040 – well ahead of the federal government – despite relatively low wind power potential and while maintaining economic value creation.
This field of innovation is about facilitating the transformation towards sustainable resource conservation, circular economy, and bioeconomy. The goal is to develop the Upper Rhine region into a model region for sustainable products, processes, services, and infrastructures, also including innovative regional value creation to strengthen rural regions.
The IC-N’s understanding of well-being encompasses individual, social, economic, and ecological aspects. Accordingly, the solution-oriented research in this field of innovation aims to enhance the well-being of all citizens in the Upper Rhine region through systemic changes.
A big goal requires strong networks so that urban regions on the Upper Rhine, which are particularly affected by climate change and at the same time strong in innovation, can become laboratories for system innovations. The applicant universities UFR (with the university medical centre) and KIT form the core of these networks.
In addition, actors from numerous other fields are instrumental for the development and implementation of the research at IC-N, as the vision of IC-N can only be realized through their involvement. They include partners from the private sector; (non-university) research institutes; cities, municipalities, and rural districts; civil society, including NGOs; chambers and professional associations as well as research and business promoters; media; etc.
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