The Research Profile of Leuphana University

Transformation — Our overarching university research focus

Questions surrounding climate change, globalization, new models of work and organization, digital media or big data occupy a central place on Leuphana's research agenda. The resulting transformation processes for people and the environment have grown bottom-up over the last ten years to become a university focus topic, which the university researches with a claim to substance and excellence: How can transformations be identified, described, and analyzed? What characterizes transformation as the antithesis of disruptive processes? What social conflicts, what different values and goals accompany these processes or result from them?

We understand transformation as a condition for the (re)creation of sociality and future viability.

The future of societies depends crucially on their ability to reflect on and cope with transformations. Committed to the action orientation in its mission statement, Leuphana University Lüneburg explores what transformation is and how it can succeed. As a university for the civil society of the 21st century, it conducts interdisciplinary research into this major transformation of our time.

[Translate to Englisch:] test ©Leuphana Universität Lüneburg/Merle Busch
[Translate to Englisch:] testt ©Unsplash
[Translate to Englisch:] test ©Leuphana/Marie Meyer

Our goal: Strengthening society's ability to respond.

Socio-Cultural Transformation

Lüneburg's cultural studies make use of a broad spectrum of disciplines in order to live up to their promise of a critical diagnosis of the present. Researchers from media, art and literary studies, philosophy, history of science and sociology as well as political science and law are working to constructively expand the repertoire of perceptual perspectives, ways of thinking and ways of acting in the context of the far-reaching socio-cultural transformation processes of the present.

For example, in the programmatic DFG Research Training Group "Cultures of Critique", the meaning, role and scope of critique and critical practices are examined, with a view to thematic areas such as techniques and media, migration, the Anthropocene or decolonisation. The fault lines of the present and the socio-cultural, political-economic, legal and technical-scientific conditions of living together in a globalised world are researched in an interdisciplinary way in institutions such as the Center for Critical Studies and the Leuphana Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture and Society (LIAS-CAS): in association with international fellows, previously "unthought, unarticulated, unquestioned things" are broken open and understood. This happens, when, for example, projects (Modern Migrants) of the first German professor of provenance research make visible the challenges of museums in matters of restitution, digitisation and decolonisation and contribute to the transformation of the art business. The Research Initiative "The Disruptive Condition" is dedicated to the prevailing socio-historical pattern of experience in contemporary globalised societies: the "immanence of the logic of interruption, fragmentation, decay and breakdown, in short, disruption". The emancipatory effects of a cool, rainy climate are being researched in the DFG-funded Reinhard Koselleck Project "Cool-Water-Effect". Geoclimatic knowledge about the developmental dynamics of innovation and risk-taking of nations will help to understand and shape change - or the lack thereof. Democracy Research in particular will benefit from this. Always strongly represented at Leuphana, it is dedicated to questions of legitimacy and performance of democracy in its own centre under the guiding theme "Democracy transformed - Transformations of Democracy". This is done particularly effectively thanks to the interconnection with transnationally oriented jurisprudence; in particular, it seeks to understand the interrelationship of law and societal transformation under the conditions of globalisation and examines the regulation of society and economy for this purpose.

Sustainability Transformation

Sustainability scientists and their stakeholders in research and practice work on conceivable and realisable transformations of sustainable development. Primarily concentrated at Leuphana's School of Sustainability - a pioneer in its field - researchers are tackling social-ecological transformation processes. With systems and target knowledge, they get to the bottom of sustainable systems and work on real sustainability problems at local, regional and international level with various stakeholders.

Researchers at Leuphana explore, among other things:

  • the "leverage points" for sustainable change, the most effective systemic changes in the institutional sphere, in the field of human-environment interaction and knowledge production. The empirically based identification of these leverage and intervention points in recent years is followed by the identification of options for action for actors and decision-makers (Leverage Points for Sustainability Transformation: Institutions, People and Knowledge).
  • protected areas as cornerstones of biodiversity. They ask how the often inadequate governance of protected areas relates to their sustainability. Social and ecological system conditions are equally in the focus of interest. The project on the effectiveness of protected areas in Zambia and Tanzania is also a global pilot study for wildlife counts (Wildlife, Values, Justice: Reconciling Sustainability in African Protected Areas).
  • the loss and conservation of biocultural diversity. In doing so, they focus on both fauna and flora, as well as on threatened forms of knowledge and practices. The contribution of biocultural diversity to sustainability is systematically examined for the first time using a case study in Bolivia. Local workshops in which the contribution of biocultural diversity to more justice and environmental friendliness is elaborated ensure a tangible impact (BioKultDiv: Biocultural Diversity in Agricultural Landscapes of the Global South).
  • participatory and place-based past, present and future ecosystem restoration in Rwanda. The ecological, social and socio-ecological consequences of restoration activities are examined, including the mechanisms that lead to different outcomes in the restoration of these systems. The resulting interdisciplinary systems approach to ecosystem restoration will ultimately advance restoration science and practice worldwide and address biodiversity loss, degradation and climate change (DFG FOR5501: A Social-Ecological Systems Approach to Ecosystem Restoration in Rural Africa).

Tansformation in Education

How can teacher education and training be continuously improved in the face of social change? Under the conditions of increasing societal complexity and in view of the ongoing structural change in schools, a well-versed approach to heterogeneity and the facilitation of inclusion are crucial: here, diversity is meant with regard to teachers, learners, but also learning content and the system level of the schools themselves. Researchers at Leuphana dedicate themselves to competence and teaching research with a strong subject didactic perspective in order to act as enablers of competent teachers and facilitators of the theory-practice link. Existing and new teaching models are analysed and further developed. Two centres of educational research act as drivers of educational transformation:

  • At the "Future Centre for Teacher Education" (ZZL), researchers work on practice-oriented approaches to integrating theory and school practice. Their established network of six campus schools is constantly being expanded to include cooperation with schools, study seminars and extracurricular institutions in order to generate the greatest possible transformative effect. Only an increased link between theory and practice will enable effective change towards more competent teachers, e.g. with regard to their diagnostic skills related to the competence development of students in specific domains and subjects; or with regard to knowledge about possibilities and techniques for support, differentiation and individualisation in the classroom.
  • At the Centre for Empirical Research on Language and Education (ERLE), basic research is conducted in the field of empirical educational research. Researchers investigate how learning processes in the classroom can be determined and explained by linguistic factors and thus point to the importance of linguistic competences for the educational success of children and young people. In the future, they want to design teaching-learning processes in such a way that they are conducive to the development of both subject-specific and linguistic competence facets and that (future) teachers can be professionalised in this respect.


Digital Transformation

Digital media technologies permeate the world. The digital transforms and creates culture. The current permanent transformation is particularly impressive in the field of digital media technologies. In their research, the academics at Leuphana focus on this culture-generating power of digital technologies in distinction to traditional application- or innovation-driven questions of "digitalisation". Media theory, cultural theory, organisational research, sociology: only an interdisciplinary and international team of researchers is up to this task. For more than a decade, Leuphana has been home to such a renowned team, which uses cultural-historical, ethnographic and experimental-performative approaches to analyse and process the transformation potential of the digital.

The institutional vessel of the research focus is the "Centre for Digital Cultures (CDC)". With the aim of understanding the emergence of new and complex qualities of socio-technical coexistence, the CDC has established itself as an internationally visible cultural studies research centre on the digital transformation. In close thematic proximity, the DFG research group "Media Cultures of Computer Simulation (MECS)" asks, for example, what new kinds of knowledge are created by computer simulations and how their use can influence the understanding of science. In the context of the MECS and the "Digital Cultures Research Lab (DCRL)", international and national fellows have been visiting Lüneburg since 2013 to research the fundamental and epochal change. Together, they are investigating the fundamentally new forms of perception, expression and organisation of the social, the political and the economic that this entails.

Entrepreneurial & Technical Transformation

The interface between business and technology is a burning glass of change and a core area of transformation. With topics such as "entrepreneurship", "digital transformation" and "sustainable management", Leuphana researches this transformation. Entrepreneurship, for example, is understood as a key competence that establishes more sustainable (digital) practices in business and society and promotes economic, social and ecological added value. Economically and technologically informed digitalisation is studied at Leuphana, for example in the areas of BigData, Internet of Things and social media, with the aim of changing usage habits and understanding the transformation to conserve resources and increase efficiency. This field is also dedicated to economic, cultural and psychologically oriented organisational research and examines success factors for sustainable behaviour.

The portfolio of research on the topic includes, among others, projects:

  • on digital entrepreneurship, specifically e.g. regional SME entrepreneurship in the digital economy (DigEN); in recent years, the joint project DigEn has supported SMEs in their entrepreneurial transformation, provided them with intervention tools and made them capable of sustainable innovation in the long term. Concrete problems of digital transformation and business model development in start-ups, growing and established companies were worked on and solved.
  • to build "communities" as "think and action tanks" to cope with the upcoming social transformation processes. Specifically, the project "TrICo - Transformation through Innovation and Cooperation in Communities" (funded by the federal-state programme "Innovative Hochschule") focuses on innovation and transfer in the Hamburg metropolitan region and in Lower Saxony. Over the next few years, four communities ("Sustainable Production", "School Development and Leadership", "Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship", "Art and Culture") will emerge as interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary groups of entrepreneurs, decision-makers, experts and scientists. This will result in potentials for long-term technological and social innovation processes, which will ultimately lead to a trend-setting and transferable cooperation model for community building and open innovation at research institutions.
  • on the engineering investigation of new materials and production and process innovations, specifically e.g. the ERC consolidator project MA.D.AM (Modelling Assisted Solid State Materials Development and Additive Manufacturing, based at HEREON, our cooperation partner). The project takes into account the growing interest in aerospace and the increasing demand for high-quality materials for additive manufacturing. The aim is to satisfy this demand by covering the entire process chain from material development to layer deposition by means of solid-state processes for the selected application case of novel Al-Cu-Li alloys.
  • on novel manufacturing techniques for innovative and more sustainable products. To this end, a modern laboratory hall is being built that will enable the development of energy-efficient manufacturing processes and material systems. The hybrid machining centre will serve advances in the manufacturing processing of novel lightweight materials and the industrial transition to a low-CO2-emission industry (FerNaPro - Manufacturing Technology for Innovative and Sustainable Products).

Profile Topics

Leuphana profiles its research in five interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary fields:

Research Information System

Leuphana's Research Information System (PURE) is a research database that provides quick access to the projects, profiles and publications of the academics working at Leuphana. More

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Vice President for Research

  • Prof. Dr. Erich Hörl