We do not know what the world will look like in 20 or even 100 years. But we can observe technological developments, social conditions, and political trends and depict possible futures. This shows that future technological consequences are created in the here and now. In the interest of desired developments, we must intervene and shape already today. However, there are considerable uncertainties and doubts about the “right” paths to take, especially since hasty decisions may lead to paths that are difficult to leave again. Thinking long-term and at the same time being flexible and able to learn in the short term is extremely ambitious. Furthermore, these deliberations, whether on the design of energy policy or the progress of digitalization, must be democratic. The difference in the level of knowledge between experts and citizens alone makes this a major challenge.
At ITAS, we address this challenge with a combination of new approaches to the long-term governance of long-term processes and their participatory design. We see long-term processes such as the phasing out of nuclear energy, the final disposal of high-level radioactive waste, the introduction of the bioeconomy, or the energy transition as socio-technical challenges. Fundamental considerations on how to deal with risk and non-knowledge also have their place at ITAS.
Transformation of society
With its real-world lab District Future, the Institute is dedicated to the participatory transformation of Karlsruhe’s Oststadt. Urban society and researchers jointly test and explore new paths to sustainability. Participation – from exchange of knowledge to the empowerment of actors – is at the center of a series of transdisciplinary projects in the real-world lab, such as Climate protection – let’s dare it together, GrüneLunge im Dialog (GreenLung in dialogue), or CapaCities. With the establishment of the Karlsruhe Transformation Center, structures are being created to accompany social transformation processes in the long term.
Co-Design of technologies
Together with citizens and stakeholders, ITAS develops action-oriented knowledge for the co-design of technologies and implementation concepts for the use of renewable resources. In projects such as APV-RESOLA, GECKO, and FuTuReS, researchers are developing environmentally sustainable paths for biomass and energy use that meet the demand for transparency and social co-determination.
ITAS has been analyzing the possibilities of societal participation in the search for a final repository for many years, for example in the research association ENTRIA. Currently, the SOTEC-radio project aims at new political processes considering technical and societal aspects in the management of radioactive waste. In the Public participation in the siting procedure for a final repository project, researchers investigate a cross-generational learning procedure for public participation. Furthermore, they work together with citizens on specific questions of the repository search in the TRANSENS project.