First TUM Sustainability Day
Optimism and an eagerness to act
In this perspective Hofmann was in complete agreement with a group of Munich students who took to the stage during the event to unveil a poster calling for better climate protection. One student called out, "We're looking forward to your actions!" The university president assured her: "We share your convictions! We're on the side of the younger generation, and we want to shape the transformation together with you."
Thursday saw many events and activities at several TUM sites on the topic of sustainability. For example, presentations at Weihenstephan highlighted research relating to forests in South America and Europe. At the Garching campus there was a gala kick-off for the TUM Mission Network Circular Economy. And even the University of Queensland, TUM's Australian flagship partner university, was onboard with an online event exploring ways to accompany and support society on its way to zero emissions.
The principle event, held in the main auditorium at TUM's central Munich campus was bathed in optimism and showed a high level of awareness for the magnitude of the challenges ahead. President Hofmann spoke of a "gigantic task". In a videotaped address, German Federal Minister of Education and Research Bettina Stark-Watzinger called on society to regard sustainability as an opportunity, adding that this will mean thinking differently. "Where would be a better place to launch such a transformation than at the universities?" the Minister asked.
In a panel discussion with participants from the scientific, political and business sectors, student representative Sina-Marie Rupp said: "I'm looking forward to the day when sustainability is no longer something out of the ordinary." She added that the sustainability will have to be anchored in all academic disciplines and will have to be taken as a complete matter of course.
Manager Dr. Thomas Becker, head of the BMW Sustainability and Mobility department, pointed to the paramount importance of the topics recycling and circular material economies for future industrial production. In his opinion, the comprehensive reuse of raw materials could result in a significant CO2 footprint reduction.
President Hofmann spoke in factor of close collaboration between the university and business sectors. "I believe this is essential, otherwise the transformation will fail." At the same time he criticized the fact that decision-makers in politics are all too often driven by ideology instead of listening to the voice of science.
Munich's vice-mayor Katrin Habenschaden assured the audience that the city regards TUM with a high degree of trust and great openness. She offered up the city for use as a "living laboratory" for new solutions to existing problems. "Let's just go ahead and try things out!"
TUM has already been committed to the topic of sustainability for several years. Many TUM research projects center on the topics of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) formulated by the United Nations.
TUM Senior Vice President for Research and Innovation Prof. Gerhard Kramer cited as TUM's fundamental SDGs "Quality Education", "Gender Equality", "Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure" and "Partnerships for the Goals".
In addition, research focus areas at TUM are the SDGs "Good Health and Well-Being", "Affordable and Clean Energy", "Sustainable Cities and Communities", "Responsible Consumption and Production", "Climate Action" and "Life on Land".
Jakob Bitner, TUM graduate and founding entrepreneur of the startup VoltStorage, reminded the guests at the first TUM Sustainability Day of the important role start-ups play in overcoming existential challenges. In contrast to established companies, he pointed out, start-ups do not depend on retaining traditional business models as long as possible. The "revolutionary energy" of the novel company makes it a driver of the necessary changes, he said. At the same time Bitner emphasized the fantastic support TUM provides to start-ups, another important contribution by the university to sustainability.