Millions granted for sustainability research in Lüneburg

Four new sustainability research projects receiving a total funding of 4.5 million Euros are getting underway at Leuphana University of Lüneburg. No other university was as successful in receiving support from the new funding program, “Science for Sustainable Development,” created by the Volkswagen Foundation and the Federal State of Lower Saxony.

Recognition for sustainability research at Leuphana University of Lüneburg: a total of four university research projects received additional funding from the Lower Saxony Ministry for Science and Culture as well as the Volkswagen Foundation. These efforts mainly involve social-ecological research, new methodologies, sustainable urban planning, and sustainable consumption. The support comes from the new funding program, “Science for Sustainable Development,” which is part of the Lower Saxony Vorab initiative. Leuphana was able to beat out some stiff competition in the application review. Sixty-six applications were submitted, eight were chosen by a panel of experts in the initial qualifying round, which was held publically for the first time with about 200 interested researchers looking on. The total amount of funding made available came to 12.1 million Euros, of which Leuphana will receive 4.5 million Euros.

The selection of no less than four research proposals from Leuphana on the field of sustainability is a major accomplishment, about which we are very pleased,” said University President Sascha Spoun. “The support from the Volkswagen Foundation will strengthen the transdisciplinary collaboration of our researchers beyond disciplinary borders. We are working intensively to transfer our research so that we can contribute to designing a sustainable society.” Dean Daniel Lang added: “This is a huge step for the continued growth of the Faculty for Sustainability. We will continue to work hard in this direction.”

“The result of this first selection round shows that the topic “sustainable science” is very important to many universities in Lower Saxony,” Dr. Wilhelm Krull, General Secretary of the Volkswagen Foundation, said in summary.
Specifically, Leuphana researchers are investigating the question of how small changes can lead to a fundamental transformation of the entire system. So-called “leverage points” can consist of people, institutions, or new insights into society. The relationship of humans to the environment will be compared with the help of European case studies: Transylvania in Rumania to Lower Saxony in Germany. The focus will be on the sustainable use of energy and nutrition. The project will be funded at the level of 2.6 million Euros and will be directed by Leuphana professors Daniel Lang, Jörn Fischer, and Jens Newig.
The second sponsored project entails cooperation between Leuphana and Arizona State University to investigate the emergence of our contemporary understanding of sustainability and sustainable development. Professors Ulli Vilsmaier, Erich Hörl, Daniel Lang und Manfred Laubichler are responsible for this project. They will explore whether sustainable development can be achieved solely through taxation and control mechanisms or whether it requires a fundamental paradigm change? This project will be receiving around 1.2 million Euros.
The project, “City as a space for possibilities” investigates the positive influence of life-style artists and alternative movements on the development of a city. The project looks at future-oriented social and economic structures that allow creative actors to be included in city planning. Professors Volker Kirchberg, Ute Stoltenberg, Ursula Weisenfeld and Dr. Sacha Kagan will be leading the research effort, which is receiving 555, 000 Euros in support.

An initiative coordinated with the University of Osnabrück focuses on the effects of digitalization in society. At the heart of this project lies the question: “How can we achieve sustainable consumption of information and communication technologies?” The Leuphana team lead by professors Stefan Schaltegger und Erik G. Hansen is interested in approaches to developing participatory business and consumer models.

“We want to strengthen sustainability as one of the guiding principles of research in Lower Saxony,” Gabriele Heinen-Kljajić, the Lower Saxony Minister for Science and Culture explained. She anticipates making an additional 15 million Euros available. Two additional applications deadlines (March 15, 2015 and March 15, 2016) are planned for the program, “Science for Sustainable Development.” All universities in Lower Saxony are eligible to apply. Cooperation with academic partners inside and outside Lower Saxony is also possible. Support for projects can extend for up to four years. Participants must include three to eight professors plus university staff.
The “Lower Saxony Vorab” consists of three parts: the yearly dividend on VW-stock valued nominally at 77.3 million Euros that has been allocated to the Volkswagen Foundation from the Federal State of Lower Saxony’s stake in Volkswagen AG. Additional funding derives from the income on 35.8 million Euros investment as part of a 1987 contract with the Federal State of Lower Saxony, as well as ten percent of remaining funding sources available. The goal is to strengthen the research profile of universities and to expand existing disciplinary fields. The funding provides a good opportunity to support the next generation of academic researchers.

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