How TUM promotes sustainability

A task force, a green campus, research and teaching on sustainability: here you can see at a glance what is happening at TUM in terms of sustainability.

1. Sustainability Task Force

An exciting new development at TUM is President Thomas F. Hofmann’s decision to set up a Sustainability Task Force. The task force is preparing a roadmap on how TUM can continue to strengthen its already well developed research and teaching in this area. Key elements will be a mapping of existing activities in teaching, research and public relations, as well as the development of first steps to enable TUM to reduce its own ecological footprint.

The new task force is headed by Prof. Dr. Miranda Schreurs from the Chair of Environmental and Climate Policy. She outlines the topics that are now of importance for TUM.

Bringing Sustainability to TUM and to Society

As a university with a strong focus on technology, TUM is well positioned to play a leading role in the field of sustainability. For this reason, the Task Force intends to initiate new activities in the field of sustainability, both on the TUM campus and between TUM and external parties from politics, civil society and the industry. Interdisciplinarity and broad participation will be crucial for the development of the strategy for sustainability. In coordinating and implementing sustainability measures, the Task Force will also be supported by the newly established sustainability unit.

Integrating Sustainability Into University Operations

Sustainability is also important to TUM with regard to its operational and building management. It focuses on energetic renovation, energy monitoring and the use of renewable energy. Over the past few years, a significant reduction in energy consumption has thus been achieved. With more than 15,000 students and 3,500 employees, TUM’s campus in Garching is already one of the largest campuses in Germany. If the growth of recent years continues, a realignment of its energy supply will soon be necessary. Within this framework, an innovative energy strategy is to be developed as part of the CleanTechCampus project, funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. The aim is to integrate the existing and new buildings into a highly efficient structure for supply and, increasingly, regenerative energy generation.

Pooling Areas of Expertise on the Respective Campus

Each TUM campus features specific areas able to contribute to the topic of sustainability. TUM Campus Garching could become a laboratory for sustainability technologies. TUM Campus Straubing (pictured above is the new laboratory and lecture building for Sustainable Chemistry) will be a leading player in Biobased Economy. At TUM Campus Munich, the focus will be on projects combining technology, politics and society, for example for urban sustainability. TUM Campus Weihenstephan already plays a pioneering role in terms of sustainability in agriculture, science and resource planning. TUM Campus Heilbronn has enormous potential when it comes to the links between digitalisation, artificial intelligence and sustainability.

2. Sustainability in Research

TUM conducts research in a wide range of future-oriented fields related to sustainability. Since sustainability transcends the boundaries of individual research areas, the majority of research projects have an interdisciplinary approach. This interdisciplinary work is already firmly anchored and institutionalised at TUM, for example in the integrative research centers TUM Institute for Advanced Study, Munich School of Engineering and Munich Center for Technology in Society. In these, scientists from various departments collaborate with leading international researchers.

Drei Beispiele

TUM Professor Francis Kéré from the Chairof Architectural Design and Participation is mostly working on developing strategies for Climate Responsive Architecture. He is internationally renowned for his innovative designs, in which he combines traditional building materials with modern engineering technology. Beyond the boundaries of his field, he is recognised for his ecologically sustainable architecture, which adapts to the natural conditions and lifestyles of its inhabitants.

The Amazon Rainforest stores large quantities of the climate-damaging greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. Deforestation, agriculture and rising temperatures are pushing this tropical forest’s ability to store carbon dioxide to its limit. It is not clear how long the forest will remain a carbon sink. In an international team TUM Professor Anja Rammig, from the Professorship of Land Surface-Atmosphere Interactions, is working towards answering this question. For her research she uses model-based analyses in combination with observational data. The models are used to estimate future changes in the ecosystem on a regional and global scale, and to develop management strategies for climate protection and adaptation.

The research focus of TUM Professor Miranda Schreurs, from the Chair of Environmental and Climate Policy, is on international and comparative climate policy, environmental politics, and low-carbon energy transitions. Among other things, she does research on energy system transformation in Japan and Germany, climate policy in Europe, the USA and Asia, and the politics of high-level radioactive waste disposal. In 2011 Chancellor Angela Merkel made her a member of the Ethics Committee for a Secure Energy Supply.

Cooperation in Knowledge and Innovation Communities

In so-called EIT-KICS, TUM is working on the sustainable production of food (EIT FOOD), develops sustainable mobility plans (EIT Urban Mobility) and innovative measures to tackle climate change (Climate-KIC). The Knowledge and Innovation Communities, KICs, are legally independent partnerships of universities, research centres, companies and other stakeholders, which address topics relevant for the future and society, selected by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT). To this end, the participating partners develop new products, training concepts or services and stimulate the start-up scene in Europe.

TUM Sustainability Award

A new addition to TUM in 2019 was the TUM Sustainability Award. With this award, the President honours innovative research with the potential of making a decisive contribution to the ecological transformation of our economy and society. Its first recipient is Prof. Dr. Thomas Brück from the Werner-Siemens Chair of Synthetic Biotechnology. Among other things, he received the award for his groundbreaking research at TUM’s Algae Cultivation Centre. The algae studied there not only produce biofuel, but can also be used to very efficiently produce carbon fibre. Meet Thomas Brück at our Round Table on Sustainability (p. 14) and attend his lecture for alumni (p. 46).

On Top of the World

At an altitude of 1,262 metres in the forest above Berchtesgaden, TUM is conducting research on the Alpine ecosystem. At the Friedrich N. Schwarz Research Station, the great diversity of habitats in the Berchtesgaden National Park receives special attention. Together with the Schneefernerhaus on Zugspitze, TUM’s research infrastructure covers alpine altitudes of up to almost 3,000 metres. Educational research in Berchtesgaden is testing concepts for successful science lessons in schools based on observing nature. The findings will be directly incorporated into TUM’s teaching degrees. The three-storey research station is largely self-sufficient, operating with treated rainwater, a biological clarification plant and solar energy. Financed by the TUM University Foundation, the new building is named after one of its patrons: TUM Alumni Friedrich N. Schwarz was a student of Electrical Engineering at TUM and subsequently pursued a corporate career.

New Priorities for Climate Protection

Together with the Technical University of Denmark, TUM formed the EuroTech Universities Alliance in 2006. Today, the alliance is a strategic partnership between six of the best technical universities in Europe: Denmark’s Tekniske Universitet, Technische Universiteit Eindhoven, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, École Polytechnique, The Technion – Israel Institute of Technology and TUM. Together they have set the goal of finding technical solutions to the major challenges facing modern society. Since 2015, one of the focal points of the collaboration has been the use of intelligent, groundbreaking technologies to help protect the environment in the new digital world. For the implementation of the project, TUM and its partner universities are setting the following priorities: sustainable society, AI for technical systems and additive manufacturing.

3. Sustainability in Education

At TUM, the topic of sustainability is an integral part of research and teaching in all 15 faculties. The spectrum ranges from Sustainable Building (Architecture), Hydraulic and Water Resources Engineering and Land Use (Department of Civil, Geo and Environmental Engineering), Smart Energy Systems (Munich School of Engineering / Electrical and Computer Engineering ), Materials Research and Power Plants (Mechanical Engineering), Energy Conversion (Chemistry and Physics) to Health and Prevention (Medicine and Sports, and Health Sciences) and Social Dialogue (TUM School of Governance). Graduates of the Master’s programme in Ecological Engineering are experts in Ecosystem Management. Through their studies they are enabled to identify conflicts in land use and effects of land use on ecosystems and to develop and lead interdisciplinary environmental planning.

The interdisciplinary Master’s programme Sustainable Resource Management at the TUM School of Life Sciences in Weihenstephan is dedicated to the sustainable use of the natural resources soil, water, air and biodiversity. The Master’s programme Consumer Science at the TUM School of Management provides expertise in the field of consumer research: its graduates analyse how consumers make decisions and which variables, for example, promote more sustainable choices.

4. Student Initiatives

TUM students are involved in numerous projects, initiatives and associations – from student business consultancy to development cooperation. Frequently, they are also committed to focus on sustainability and actively shape their own future. The students apply the knowledge gained during their studies and in doing so, train their entrepreneurial thinking and conduct. At the same time, friendships and networks across Europe and the globe develop.

Environmental Department of the TUM Student Council

The Environmental Department of the TUM Student Council is organising numerous projects on environmental and sustainability issues. One of the highlights is the lecture series ‘Environment’, which, this year, takes place for the 70. time. Speakers from research, environmental organisations and business provide information on environmental technology, health, as well as on consumer and climate protection (see p. 46). The students have also developed their Vision 2030, in which they call for a green campus design and a university that is self-sufficient in energy.

Green Office

The Green Office at TUM Campus Straubing is run by students for students and serves as a platform and common denominator for students and university employees interested in sustainability. It improves and simplifies the communication of existing initiatives, coordinates projects, connects different parties involved, and creates new impetus.

Engineers Without Borders

At Engineers Without Borders, students work with alumni and other experienced engineers to develop sustainable concepts for better access to electricity and water worldwide. The current main focus is on renewable energies with particular emphasis on photovoltaic applications. Currently, the projects take place in Africa. In addition to the technical design of the systems, emphasis is placed on developing a coherent, effective and viable concept for the sustainability of the implemented projects.