As temperatures rise, the risk of devastating forest fires is increasing. Researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) are using artificial intelligence to estimate the long-term impact that an increased number of forest fires will have on forest ecosystems. Their simulations show how Yellowstone National Park in the USA could change by the end of the century.
TUM Sustainability: How we are making our university more sustainable
How can we make our university more sustainable and environmentally friendly and – in doing so – increase our contribution to global sustainability efforts? Moving forward, we have decided to embrace this challenge – as environmental, economic and social sustainability is one of the biggest issues set to define life in the 21st century. As a thought leader within society, we have a responsibility to shape a more sustainable future. Acting together, let us master the many tasks that lie ahead.
How we are forming our strategy
Together, we are identifying the building blocks required to create a holistic strategy that will act as a roadmap for our sustainability journey; an action plan fitting of a university of international standing with the power to influence society, industry and policy-makers. We are in the process of creating the necessary governance structures, building on the commitment and support of the entire university community. Communication and knowledge transfer are key success factors in the process.
Our objective: To unleash the full sustainability potential of TUM across our key action areas: research – teaching – entrepreneurship – campus & operations.
- Sustainability office: Brings together all existing initiatives and ideas under an overarching strategic framework, supports their implementation, and generates new ideas and projects through cooperation.
- Sustainability taskforce: In spring 2020, the taskforce wrote a comprehensive report to underpin the sustainability function’s strategy. The taskforce members remain strongly committed to the issue – both within their respective disciplines and for the university as a whole.
- Thematic teams: Interdisciplinary thematic teams, focused on the key action areas, recommend action plans and implement projects. Sustainability initiatives are piloted at TUM, and adapted to our specific requirements. This gives us an efficient, targeted blueprint for sustainability improvements across the entire university.
“We can make the world a better place”
Four experts, one goal: How can society be won over to a more sustainable lifestyle? And what role do universities and research institutes play in this process? These questions are discussed by Prof. Dr. Thomas Brück, Foundation Director and TUM alumna Dr. María José Barragán-Paladines, student Tabea Riemensperger, and entrepreneur Dr. Andreas Sichert. Read the interview
How we are bringing sustainability to life?
Top-of-their-game scientists from around the world, excellent facilities and resources, and interdisciplinary teams all combine to inspire real innovations and valuable insights into how we can improve environmental, economic and social sustainability.
A snapshot of our research activities
- TUM Campus Straubing for Biotechnology and Sustainability: Cross-disciplinary research and teaching at this integrative research center focus on renewable resources, biotechnology and bioeconomy.
- Research Station Friedrich N. Schwarz: High up in the Berchtesgaden Alps, researchers are studying the alpine ecosystem and investigating new methods of teaching science in schools. All of this happens in a sustainable wooden building at an altitude of 1,262 meters.
- Schneefernerhaus environmental research station on the Zugspitze: In cooperation with other universities and research institutes, we conduct research into key environmental and climate issues on the highest mountain in Germany.
- Winners of the TUM Sustainability Award: We have been awarding this prize since 2019 for outstanding scientific contributions to a more sustainable future.
The future belongs to future generations – our students! That is why we incorporate sustainability thinking into our study programs and even place it center stage on certain courses, for instance with the unique range of programs offered at the TUM Campus Straubing for Biotechnology and Sustainability. We equip the next generation with the skills they will need to make sustainable decisions for the good of our planet and society. This is the essence of “human-centered engineering”.
A snapshot of our study programs
- Agrosystem Sciences – Master of Science (M.Sc.)
- Forest Science and Resource Management – Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.)
- Green Electronics – Master of Science (M.Sc.) at TUM Asia, Singapur
- Ecological Engineering – Master of Science (M.Sc.)
- Politics & Technology – Master of Science (M.Sc.) at the the Bavarian School of Public Policy (HfP)
- Resource Efficient and Sustainable Building – Master of Science (M.Sc.)
- Responsibility in Science, Engineering and Technology (RESET) – Master of Arts (M.A.)
- Sustainable Energies and Entrepreneurship in the Global South – Master of Science (M.Sc.) / planned for winter semester 2021/22
- Sustainable Resource Management – Master of Science (M.Sc.)
- TUM Campus Straubing for Biotechnology and Sustainability: Degree program overview
- Urbanism – Urban and Landscape Studies and Design – Master of Science (M.Sc.)
- … search all degree programs
Our Sustainable Living Labs
- The pilot project Plant A Seed campus gardening
- Call for Sustainable Living Labs winter semester 2021/22 [Download PDF; German]
- Modules at the Munich School of Philosophy: Ethics and questions around society for science and technology students (in German)
- EuroTeQ Engineering Campus: We develop study programs and continuous learning programs for the engineering graduates of the future in cooperation with our partner universities in the EuroTech Universities Alliance
- Sustainability Council following the UN model: Students at TUM Campus Straubing for Biotechnology and Sustainability simulate a United Nations conference
Our students are active in many different projects, initiatives and societies and engage with sustainability topics in a variety of ways. By applying their academic knowledge, they embody TUM’s mission of thinking and acting like an entrepreneurial university. In the process, they have formed friendships and networks across Europe and the rest of the world.
A snapshot of our projects and initiatives
- „Ringvorlesung Umwelt“ (lecture series on the environment) and more environmental activities of TUM’s student representation
- TUM Speakers Series; eg. with former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
- TU empower Africa
- TUfast Eco Team
- Ingenieure ohne Grenzen (Engineers without borders)
- Green Office Campus Straubing, set up on the initiative of students
- Other student initiatives: Everyone is welcome to get involved!
Successful tech companies have emerged from the inventions of our researchers and students. The innovations they develop bring the topic of sustainability to a wider public audience. TUM is the top German university for the number of entrepreneurs who transition their idea from the lab to the market.
A snapshot of our start-ups
- Evum Motors: Electric vehicle for Germany and in particular for countries in the Global South (aCar)
- fos4X: Efficiency gains for wind turbines with digital solutions
- Hawa Dawa: AI-based air quality data analysis
- Kitekraft: Power-generating kites
- Orcan Energy: Producing electricity from waste heat
- Presize: Reducing online shopping returns by trying on clothes virtually in advance
Today’s start-ups are attaching more and more importance to sustainability, as revealed by a Europe-wide online survey conducted by UnternehmerTUM GmbH (05/2020).
Society needs to act together to transform our world into a more sustainable place. That is why we collaborate with our international partners to find solutions, develop technologies, and create new training and learning concepts.
A snapshot of our collaborations
- EuroTech Universities Alliance: “Sustainable Society” is one of the main focus topics of our cooperation with EuroTech partner universities. Our research projects include smart technologies for environmental protection in the digital age.
- International Sustainable Campus Network (ISCN): On an international level, we joined this network with universities on all continents with strong commitments and leading positions in sustainability.
- Bavarian Network for Sustainability in Higher Education: We are part of a 25-strong Bavarian university network which, building on a common understanding of sustainability, pools its resources in support of a whole-institutional approach to sustainability.
- European Knowledge and Innovation Communities (EIT-KICs): We work toward the sustainable production of food (EIT FOOD), develop sustainable mobility concepts (EIT Urban Mobility) and think of innovative measures to mitigate climate change (Climate-KIC).
- TUM without borders – Development cooperation at TUM: Teaming up with local partners around the world, TUM academics, students and staff make valuable contributions to more sustainable economic, social and environmental infrastructures in developing countries.
- TUM Seed Center: Interdisciplinary research and teaching combined with entrepreneurship is supporting the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations by focusing on sustainable, low-cost energy as a driver of development in the Global South.
As a strategic unit, we report directly to the Board of Management. We coordinate, initiate, bundle and synergize the university’s ambitious sustainability activities. In addition, we report regularly on the progress of our sustainability strategy.
Head of the Sustainability taskforce
- Greta Baden, Student representative
- Prof. Dr. Frank-Martin Belz, Chair of Corporate Sustainability Brewery and Food Industry
- Prof. Dr. Benedikt Boucsein, Professorship Urban Design
- Prof. Dr.-Ing. Markus Disse, Lehrstuhl für Hydrologie und Flussgebietsmanagement
- Kasimir Forth, Leonhard Obermeyer Center
- Prof. Dr. Magnus Fröhling, Professorship Circular Economy
- Prof. Dr. Thomas Hamacher, Chair of Renewable and Sustainable Energy Systems
- Max Hoffmann, Student representative
- Prof. Dr. Gerhard Kramer, Senior Vice President Research & Innovation
- Prof. Dr. Werner Lang, Chair of Energy-Efficient, Sustainable Building and Planning
- Tobias Michl, Sustainability Office
- Sandro Pfoh, Projektplattform Energie
- Prof. Dr. Anja Rammig, Professorship for Land Surface-Atmosphere Interactions
- Prof. Dr. Miranda Schreurs, Chair of Energy and Environmental Policy (Head of the Taskforce)
- Prof. Dr.-Ing. Hartmut Spliethoff, Chair of Energy Systems
How we can all make a difference – starting today
Whether you’re on your way to the university, at work or having lunch, the choices you make every day have environmental, economic and social implications, and all of these impacts are interlinked. We encourage you to use and support the many sustainability activities, services and initiatives which are already in place at TUM. By getting actively involved today, you can become part of the sustainability strategy of tomorrow.
Further links and downloads
- "Sustainability is about research, respect, and responsibility" Interview with Senior Vice President Gerhard Kramer (translation from the German magazine TUMcampus 1/2021)
- Nachhaltigkeit – Ideen für heute aus der TUM-Familie / Sustainability – Ideas for today from the TUM community (German alumni magazine KontakTUM 01/2020 – PDF, 5 MB)
- Wissenschaft, Vernunft, Nachhaltigkeit – Denkanstöße für die Zeit nach Corona / Science, common sense, sustainability – thought-provoking ideas for the post-coronavirus era (in German, TUM Forum Sustainability – published by the TUM Senior Excellence Faculty and the TUM Institute for Advanced Study, 2020)
- You can find news, more information and events in the #sustainability-channel of the TUM rocket.chat
Plants rotting in the soil are valuable for more than just compost. In fact, plant residues play a crucial role in keeping carbon in the soil, which is important for reducing the planet's CO2 emissions. This is the conclusion of a new study by researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and other institutions.
When extreme heat becomes more frequent and temperatures remain high for extended periods of time, as it is currently the case in Canada and the American Northwest, physiological stress increases in humans, animals and crops. Prof. Senthold Asseng, director of the World Agricultural Systems Center at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an overview of thresholds and adaptation strategies.
Zeolites are extremely porous materials: Ten grams can have an internal surface area the size of a soccer field. Their cavities make them useful in catalyzing chemical reactions and thus saving energy. An international research team has now made new findings regarding the role of water molecules in these processes. One important application is the conversion of biomass into biofuel.
The start-up TWAICE has received the TUM Presidential Entrepreneurship Award in recognition of its research-based entrepreneurial success. The other finalists were Retorio and Capmo. The software products of the three TUM spin-outs facilitate powerful batteries, intelligent staff selection and efficient processes on construction sites.