TUM-IAS Director’s Message

Sustainability is the major challenge ­confronting ­society and science today. A look at the UN’s 17 ­Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) reveals that research ­faces immense tasks. There are ­numerous opportunities to ­utilize the great potential of ­interdisciplinary, ­networked thinking and working collaboratively. The preventive ­approaches of the WHO “One Health” concept aim to ­defuse the most ­significant health problems of all, such as infectious diseases and many chronic ­diseases. ­Engineers are needed on many fronts to ­develop technologies geared toward creating humane and nature-­friendly living conditions for ­everyone on our planet. The spectrum of work in the ­technology sector is extremely ­diverse and highly complex, and this also applies to ­basic scientific ­research. The ­latter creates the basis for ­translating or testing new, ­sustainable processes.

That is why research and other activities on sustainability are taking an increasingly prominent role at the TUM-IAS. In 2023, 49 of our 80 TUM-IAS Focus Groups worked on topics that were related to the UN’s ­Sustainable Development Goals. Last year, we were able to award the Sustainability Awards supported by the Nobel Sustainability Trust for the first time. The ­winners were Prof. Elena Bou and Lord Nicholas Stern. The ­selection process was in the hands of the ­TUM-IAS, as was the content design for the ­Nobel Trust Summit held in ­November 2023 in Munich, where the prizes were awarded (see chapter “Actions, ­Awards, Events”).

The new Dieter Schwarz Courageous Research Grant marks a new milestone for TUM and for the TUM-IAS. With annual funding of one million Euros, it represents the most extensive internal TUM research program and is entirely dedicated to Digitization and Sustainability. We, at the TUM-IAS are honored to lead and implement this new, groundbreaking program.

In addition, another Dieter Schwarz Fellowship ­supports research in subject areas offered by TUM on its ­campus in Heilbronn. The new programs ­expanded our ­activities significantly, and we were able to ­announce both of them for the first time last year. The first ­Fellows ­will be appointed in 2024 (see chapter “­Actions, Awards, Events”).

The new Seminar Series of European Universities on Sustainability, launched in autumn 2023, not only brings together scientists from research and ­academic institutions in Eastern, South-Eastern, and Central Europe, but also addresses “sustainability” as a core ­element of all seminars at the TUM-IAS. At present, the online event enables participants from more than eight universities to gain an overview of interdisciplinary ­sustainability research and to establish new contacts (see chapter “Actions, Awards, Events”).

A funding line close to my heart is the Philosopher in Residence. Innovative research in the natural and health sciences, as well as in technical disciplines, raises ­numerous questions – both of an internal ­nature and of social significance. This necessitates deeper ­reflection and classification in the context of ­future-­oriented social developments related to ­sustainability and resilience. Thanks to the support of the TÜV SÜD ­Foundation and the TUM Excellence Strategy, we were able to start this year with two ­philosophers: Prof. ­Roberto Giuntini from the ­University of Cagliari and PD Rico Gutschmidt from the University of Konstanz and ETH Zurich (see chapter “­Welcoming Our New ­Fellows”).

Lastly, on our website, you can now enjoy short ­video clips with some of our active and alumni Fellows from Argentina, Denmark, Ireland, Italy, Sweden, and the USA describing their TUM-IAS research projects – ­concisely and comprehensibly for non-experts!

I would like to express my gratitude to our friends and supporters: Siemens AG, the TÜV SÜD ­Foundation, the Dieter Schwarz Foundation, the Nemetschek ­Innovationsstiftung, and the Nobel Sustainability Trust. Your support is instrumental in bringing our ideas to life, getting new things off the ground, and possibly ­launching new initiatives.