The ecological crisis has been moving further up the list of pressing problems facing humanity for decades – not only because of climate change but also due to the loss of biodiversity, sinking groundwater levels, the degradation of arable land, and the pollution of the oceans. Despite all the commendable progress in the efficiency of modern technology and all the efforts made so far, such as in the German energy transition, the crisis is far from being overcome. Creative approaches and new thinking are needed, also for better use of scarce resources as part of a circular economy. The concept of sustainability points to ways to ensure that future generations can still meet their needs. However, it must be laid down for every individual issue.
The importance of sustainability in our daily lives and its practical implementation in the international community is one of the central research fields at ITAS. It is at the heart of real-world lab research, orients our research on the reorganization of economic processes toward renewable raw materials (bioeconomy), and guides ITAS’s research on new technologies and transformation paths for the energy system. ITAS also explores fundamental ethical and epistemic aspects of sustainability.
Real-world lab research
Real-world lab research and development is the subject of numerous projects at ITAS and is characterized by its transdisciplinary nature. The District Future – Urban Lab, for example, was established in 2012 as one of the first real-world labs in Germany. Other examples are Energy transformation in dialogue, which deals with the participatory and sustainable design of our future energy system, or Climate protection – let’s dare it together, which investigates and promotes greenhouse gas savings through individual behavioral changes in everyday life. A further key element is the establishment of the Karlsruhe Transformation Center.
In the field of bioeconomy, ITAS evaluates the energetic and material use of agricultural and forestry residues (Energy System 2050) or products made from algae (PHOTFUEL, ABACUS). In addition to ecological, social, and economic aspects, the focus is on the sustainable use of resources and closed cycles (ALG-AD). The resilience of urban forests and their contribution to livable cities is being studied by researchers in the GreenLung project.