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Human-centered research and innovation

Whether we are investigating the origins of life, matter and the universe or looking for solutions to the major challenges for our society, people lie at the heart of our research and innovation agenda. As a wide-ranging reform concept, “human-centered engineering” aims to integrate TUM’s excellence in science and engineering into the mindset of the modern world.

Understanding the essential foundations of life

Where do we come from? What is the world made of and what constitutes a living form? To answer these questions, we use cutting-edge equipment and scientific methods to study the universe and the structure of matter. We also investigate the fundamental mechanisms of life – from the Big Bang to the emergence of the first molecules through to cells and complete organisms.

  • Comprehending the development of the universe – from the Big Bang through to the evolution of life – remains one of the most exciting challenges facing science. This is the focus of research in our “ORIGINS” Cluster of Excellence.

    Image: Helix-Nebula – ESO/VISTA/J. Emerson
  • Neutrinos, exceedingly light elementary particles, race through the universe, revealing something about the processes involved when stars explode. The international neutrino telescope “IceCube” at the South Pole hunts down these “messages from space”. Physicist Elisa Resconi, Chair of the Collaborative Research Center 1258 (“Neutrinos and Dark Matter”), is playing a leading role in this context.

    Image: Magdalena Jooss
  • Neutrons offer non-destructive means of revealing the internal structure of materials and how they change. The “light” generated by the Research Neutron Source Heinz Maier-Leibnitz (FRM II) provides key insights for researchers active in basic research worldwide, as well as for applications in the semiconductor, automotive and aerospace industries, in addition to sectors such as mechanical engineering, chemicals, medical technology, environmental technologies and the energy sector – and all the way through to geology and archaeology. With the production of radio isotopes, the FRM II supports medical diagnostics as well as the treatment of tumors.

    Image: Andreas Heddergott
  • How did life evolve on the earth? Scientists active in the fields of astronomy, biology, chemistry, geosciences and physics are exploring central aspects of molecular evolution from the beginnings of life until today at the DFG’s Collaborative Research Center TRR235 (“Origins of Life”). We want to gain a better understanding of how living matter originates from inanimate matter, learn more about the origins of life and thereby expand our conception of life.

    Image: J. Wiedersich/TUM created from PDB ID 3ZP8 with NGL Viewer
  • Drawing on a deeper knowledge of the characteristics of proteins and their functioning, we adopt a comprehensive approach, including genetic, (bio)chemical and (bio)physical methods, in establishing the biological basis for their physiological interaction and the manner in which their malfunctioning causes serious illnesses, while exploring new approaches for their treatment. Through new insights into protein biosynthesis, the folding of amino acid chains to form functioning proteins, the cellular interaction of proteins and their applications in pharmaceutical biotechnology, our scientists active at the “CIPSM” Cluster of Excellence and the “TUM Center for Functional Protein Assemblies“ have gained an excellent reputation in protein research worldwide.

    Image: Andreas Heddergott

Maintaining health and targeting diseases

How do we diagnose medical conditions? What treatments will we use in future for serious illnesses like cancer, multiple sclerosis or Alzheimer’s? And what kind of surgical methods will we apply? To answer these questions, we combine the study of medicine with the natural sciences, life sciences and engineering. We develop new technologies to gain more detailed insights into the human body and investigate new approaches for personalized diagnoses and therapies. Scientific findings are incorporated into the training of physicians and the treatment of patients, leading to direct improvements in both.

  • A multi-disciplinary team consisting of researchers in our “SyNergy” Cluster of Excellence is researching the pathomechanisms of neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or Multiple Sclerosis as well as new therapeutic approaches.

    Image: Dominik Pabst / TUM
  • Scientists from the fields of medicine, engineering and the natural sciences are engaged in close cooperation at the TUM Center for Translational Cancer Research (“TranslaTUM”) at the University Hospital Rechts der Isar in order to increase the chances of curing cancer patients through the development and clinical application of new diagnostic and therapeutic procedures. By participating in the German Consortium for Translational Cancer Research (DKTK) and DFG Collaborative Research Centers 824, 1321 and 1335, we have attained a leading position in basic and therapeutic cancer research.

    Image: Andreas Heddergott
  • Drawing on our outstanding expertise gained by the study of the human immune system, we are developing personalized diagnostic and therapeutic procedures for diseases such as cancer, infections, allergies or autoimmune diseases. We identify environmental and genetic risk factors and biomarkers of significance in the development of immunological diseases, establish new diagnostic tests for selected immune diseases and develop new approaches to the production of cell therapeutics and new strategies for precision therapy. We are contributing this extensive expertise to the DFG Collaborative Research Centers 914, 1054 and TRR36 and health centers funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, the German Center for Infection Research (DZIF), as well as to the German Center for Lung Research (DZL) and the German Center for Diabetes Research (DZD).

    Image: Andreas Heddergott
  • Our Munich School of BioEngineering is an impressive example of how the natural sciences and engineering disciplines can form alliances with medicine. is offered by our Munich School of BioEngineering. With the focus on Biomedical Imaging & Microscopy, Synthetic Biology & Biomolecular Systems, Biomaterials, Biomedical Technologies & Computing as well as Bioinformatics, our scientists develop approaches for solving the major challenges in health care based on an interdisciplinary structure. Featuring an extremely compact footprint, the “Munich Compact Light Source” mini-synchrotron generates ultra-brilliant X-rays creating images of tissue in unimagined resolution, while detecting extremely minute tumors.

    Image: Andreas Heddergott
  • At the interfaces between food science, nutrition research and medicine, we investigate biomedically relevant issues at the “ZIEL – Institute for Food & Health” with the focus on the subject complex of nutrition – the microbiome – intestinal health – metabolism. On the basis of new findings from basic research such as SFB1371 (“Microbiome Signatures”), we are developing new concepts for preventing and curing chronic intestinal diseases.

    Image: TUM

Shaping a sustainable living enviroment

The interplay between environmental, climate, energy, nutrition and resource concerns is one of the biggest challenges in the history of humanity. We are rising to this challenge through research, teaching and entrepreneurial action across multiple disciplines spanning the natural sciences, life sciences, engineering, the humanities, social sciences, economics and medicine. We develop innovative strategies and technologies to protect our air, water and soil, and to safeguard natural ecosystems for future generations. At the same time, we are actively helping to shape the energy and mobility solutions of the future. We develop strategies and new approaches for sustainable agricultural and food production and investigate ways to mitigate the consequences of climate change and extinction of species.

  • At the Hans Eisenmann-Forum for Agricultural Sciences in Weihenstephan, we face up to the challenges posed by sustainable agricultural production and the reliable supply of food to the world. Our activities there bridge the gap between basic research and agricultural practice. Plants and animals, soil and water, ecology and economics – the research extends from the molecular and cellular level to practical field trials. The DFG Collaborative Research Center SFB 924 and the “KIC Food” EU Knowledge and Innovation Community are researching new solutions to sustainable agricultural production from the foundations to the final products.

    Image: Andreas Heddergott
  • We are exploring innovative concepts and technologies for safe, environmentally-friendly and user-centric mobility. This includes the development of electric vehicles such as “VisioM” (Munich), “aCar” (Africa, pictured) or “EVA” (TUM-CREATE, Singapore) as well as intelligent mobility solutions for attractive urban spaces which we are developing, for example, in a transdisciplinary structure in the Munich Alliance “M4Cube” as well as the EU Knowledge and Innovation Community “KIC Urban Mobility”.

    Image: Andreas Heddergott
  • Fossil fuels are in finite supply and their combustion emits climate-damaging CO2. Drawing on its interdisciplinary research and training program, our TUM Campus Straubing for Biotechnology and Sustainability focuses on the efficient chemical, material and energy recovery of biogenic raw materials as a contribution to the sustainable provision of raw materials and energy. We develop novel products, technologies and business models for a sustainable bioeconomy and bring them to their market maturity stage.

    Image: Andreas Heddergott
  • “Mission Earth” is the motto of the Department of Aerospace and Geodesy. Here we develop aviation fuels and carbon fibers from algae as well as pioneering flight systems such as air taxis for the urban transport of tomorrow. We draw on satellite data to record the world from above, observe the pace at which mega-cities are growing and monitor changes to glaciers. In doing so, our aim is to understand the world as a whole and make it a better place.

    Image: Andreas Heddergott
  • At the Environmental Research Station Schneefernerhaus on the Zugspitze, Germany’s highest mountain, we conduct research on the consequences of climate change for cities and agricultural landscapes, forests and mountains – at a height of 2650 m above sea level. Our expertise is in demand around the world, e.g. to investigate CO2 storage in the Amazon rainforest in the “AmazonFACE” project or for climate protection innovations as launched by the EU Knowledge & Innovation Community “KIC Climate”.

    Image: Andreas Heddergott
  • The “Munich School of Engineering” pools our resources in the field of energy research (“TUM.Energy”) at the interface between engineering disciplines and the natural sciences. We research innovative concepts and technologies with the focus on new energy materials and renewable energies, efficient power station technologies, electromobility, as well as energy efficiency in construction and intelligent energy systems.

    Image: Stefan Hobmaier

Creating new materials and advanced manufacturing technologies

New materials form the basis of technological advancement. They allow us to make things like long-life batteries for electric vehicles, high-performance solar cells, supercomputers or ultra-sensitive sensors. As part of the quest to develop new materials, numerous science and engineering research groups are investigating areas including quantum effects and catalysis processes. We develop technologies to produce innovative materials for the next generation of industrial processes and shape digital technologies for additive manufacturing of function-optimized components based on 3D designs targeted at key industries such as automotive, aerospace, building and construction, medical and health technologies, and chemistry and catalysis.

  • New technologies for converting energy are needed in order to guarantee a stable, efficient and sustainable energy supply. Based on the performance of semiconductor technology and nanophysics (Walter Schottky Institute; “Nano Initiative Munich” Cluster of Excellence”) and backed by the catalysis and energy research conducted at the TUM Catalysis Research Center, we are exploring the foundations of nanofunctional energy systems in the “e-conversion” Cluster of Excellence and developing viable energy materials in close cooperation with the natural sciences and engineering disciplines. The priorities are on energy conversion processes in various technologies – from photovoltaics through to (photo)electrocatalysis and on to battery technology.

    Image: Andreas Heddergott
  • Computers, microchips, lasers: technology based on the findings of quantum mechanics is at work in many areas. At the “Munich Center for Quantum Science & Technology” (MCQST) Cluster of Excellence, we are pursuing the aim of gaining a comprehensive understanding of quantum mechanical phenomena, thereby identifying technical applications for basic components, materials and concepts for quantum technologies: quantum computers, quantum communications and quantum sensor technology. The interdisciplinary research ranges from analyzing the interconnections of many-particle systems to quantum chemistry, astronomy and precision metrology. Sustainable future growth finds support in the TUM Center for QuantumEngineering which is now being set up.

    Image: Christoph Hohmann / NIM
  • Saving energy and resources in chemical conversion: this is what catalysts do. They pave the way for “green technologies” as without them, industrial chemistry would not be economically efficient. At the TUM Catalysis Research Center, we explore new paths for reactions and syntheses, clarify reaction mechanisms and work closely with international partners from science and industry. Nobel prize-winner Ernst Otto Fischer laid the cornerstone for TUM’s catalysis research.

    Image: Astrid Eckert
  • At the Walter Schottky Institute for Semiconductor Physics (WSI), we are researching the physical basis for manufacturing semiconductors. To do so, we combine novel nanostructures, semiconductor materials, component prototypes as well as highly sensitive physical and chemical measuring techniques. Numerous managers active in the semiconductor industry today were trained here.

    Image: Andreas Heddergott
  • Innovative biomaterials and the generative production of biological function systems have the potential to revolutionize future developments in medicine, medical technology as well as the pharmaceuticals and biotechnology sectors. At the Munich School of BioEngineering, the TUM Center for Functional Protein Assemblies and the TUM Campus Straubing for Sustainability and Biotechnology, we explore functional biological materials along the molecule – cell – tissue chain with a combination of tools from the fields of additive manufacture, nanotechnology, biomaterial sciences and synthetic biology as well as computer and data sciences.

    Image: Lara Kuntz / Leone Rossetti
  • In the “Industry 4.0” era, the layer-by-layer manufacture of complex workpieces and moldings is opening up completely new paths to geometrically complex systems with functional characteristics which would not have been achievable with traditional production methods. Within the context of the “TUM Additive” action plan, we are pooling existing skills in research and teaching as well as infrastructures in core areas of additive manufacturing. Integrated solution approaches are being created in the core areas of materials, end-to-end additive manufacturing processes and digitization in the Industry-on-Campus research alliance “Bavarian Additive Manufacturing Cluster” in partnership with leading commercial enterprises in order to accelerate the industrial exploitation of additive manufacture and the future viable transformation of manufacturing sectors of industry: automotive, aerospace, construction & design, medical engineering & health care technologies.

    Image: Andreas Heddergott

Pioneering the digital transformation for a secure future

How can we prevent sensitive data from falling into the wrong hands? How can we program robots to react to their surroundings without posing a danger to people? And how can we predict that an area is at risk from a tsunami? Together with our research partners, we develop digital technologies to make our everyday and working lives easier and safer.

  • Nurse robots, driverless cars and automated production in factory halls: at the “Munich School of Robotics and Machine Intelligence” (MSRM), we develop innovative and sustainable technologies and solutions by exploring machine intelligence for the pivotal challenges of our time.

    Image: Astrid Eckert
  • Digitization is revolutionizing the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease. At the “Munich School of BioEngineering” and the TUM Center for Translational Cancer Research (“TranslaTUM”), we are developing imaging techniques and augmented reality applications. A digital operating theater of the future is being created in collaboration with the “Munich School of Robotics and Machine Intelligence” and the German Heart Center Munich.

    Image: metamorworks / istockphotos
  • Drawing on our expertise in the areas of IoT (Internet of Things) and cyber-physical systems, we are developing forward looking, avantgarde technologies for networked industrial processes – e.g. together with our European partners in the German-French Academy for the Industry of the Future.

    Image: Uli Benz
  • For technologies like autonomous cars, robots, networked devices and digital medicine to be of use to us, we must be able to trust them. We are researching crypto and blockchain techniques which protect technologies from outside intervention. We are developing automated procedures to test AI systems.

    Image: Andreas Heddergott
  • Wherever experiments are ethically unjustifiable or simply impossible, we rely on the digital laboratory. For example, we use supercomputers to simulate events such as earthquakes with complex numerical models at the “Munich School of Engineering”. We also plan buildings at a digital drawing board.

    Image: Gerhard Schubert

Responsible research and innovation in service of society

We shape technological progress to serve people and society. That is why we are pushing forward with human-centered engineering, where we combine our traditional strengths in the natural sciences and engineering with the humanities and social sciences. From care robots and autonomous vehicles to blockchain technology, our researchers are exploring innovations at the interfaces between technology, economics, politics and society. The latest research findings are incorporated directly into the curricula of our study programs.

  • Due to the tremendous pace of progress, technological questions today play a significant, frequently decisive role in nearly every field of politics. At the “TUM School of Governance” and the Bavarian School of Public Policy, we study the interactions between politics, society, business and technology. We research and teach the causes and consequences of technological change in areas such as Internet governance, energy, the environment, international business relationships and competition policy in the course of globalization, climate change, Big Data, international organizations, food safety, data security and mobility, political theory, justice and ethics, anti-trust legislation and competition policies, as well as more far-reaching questions regarding politics and society.

    Image: Deutscher Bundestag / MELDEPRESS/AMS
  • As one of the most important centers for scientific and technical research in Germany, our “Munich Center for Technology in Society” (MCTS) aims to understand and shape the manifold interactions between science, technology and society. The MCTS “Engineering Responsibility Lab” investigates the handling of responsibility in the development and implementation of innovations. This relates to social responsibility and equally to its incorporation in the work process. At the “TUM Institute for Ethics in Artificial Intelligence” in the MCTS, we study the ethical and social questions that arise as AI increasingly influences and determines different areas of life.

    Image: iStock/industryview
  • At the “Entrepreneurship Center”, we offer technology-minded entrepreneurs extensive services from the initial idea to the growth phase. On the campus in Garching, we combine the research and teaching activities of the “TUM Entrepreneurship Research Institute” with the practical help in setting up a company offered by our affiliated institute “UnternehmerTUM” in a process of cross-fertilization. We study entrepreneurial issues from an economic and psychological perspective, with the aim of enhancing scientific understanding of start-up successes and accelerating technology transfer sustainably, and over the long term.

    Image: iStock/nd3000
  • Excellently qualified teachers are the foundation of our education system. The “TUM School of Education” is therefore dedicated to empirical research into schools and teaching, the pedagogical and psychological aspects of digital media and specialist didactics for MINT subjects. The Berchtesgadener Land school students research center, is a model institution of TUM, of national renown, in which we present our own research projects in introducing young people and school classes to the fascination of science and technology.

    Image: Astrid Eckert
  • Research at the Institute for History and Ethics of Medicine focuses on questions relating to the responsible development and introduction of new biomedical technologies. Further priorities include neuroethics, research ethics and public health ethics as well as new solidarity concepts in medicine.

    Image: Andreas Heddergott

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