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  • Sustainability Report 2023

    Campus Bielefeld University
    Bielefeld University

Sustainable research projects

Assigned to the three dimensions of sustainability, social, ecological and economic, you will find below a selection of various research projects related to sustainability:

Social affairs

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Contact: Prof Dr Olaf Kaltmeier(, Prof Dr Eleonora Rohland(

to the project website


University of Guadalajara: Prof. Dr Gerardo Gutiérrez Cham

ITESO, Guadalajara: Prof. Dr Susana Herrara Lima


The Anthropocene as multiple crisis

As part of the Maria Sybilla Merian Center for Advanced Latin American Studies (CALAS) Bielefeld/Guadalajara, the research team, research unit, research group "Coping with Environmental Crises" is working on the topic of "The Anthropocene as a Multiple Crisis: Latin American Perspectives". The project aims to define and contribute new methodological and analytical foci to the understanding of the Anthropocene in Latin America and the Caribbean as well as in the social sciences and humanities. One of the main outcomes of this interdisciplinary and transatlantic project group is a 6-volume bilingual handbook on the history of the Anthropocene in Latin America. Although the start date of the Anthropocene is not uncontroversial, it is now widely accepted that it began in 1950, under the term "Great Acceleration", due to the rapid increase in polluting activities that made up the crisis of the Anthropocene that began at that time. However, if there is a "Great Acceleration", this also implies a preceding phase of slower condensation of these "Anthropocene" processes. Precisely because so many of the extractivist-capitalist practices that are part of the Western "enlightened" energy model and cultural construction have their origins in Latin America and the Caribbean, the project looks at the prehistory of the Anthropocene since 1492.



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Faculty of Chemistry

Contact: Prof Dr Norbert Sewald(

to the project website


University of Yaoundé I: Prof Dr Bruno Lenta

Duration: 2016 - 2025

YaBiNaPA - Yaoundé-Bielefeld Graduate School

PIs and doctoral students from YaBiNaPA at a network meeting in Yaoundé
Pis and doctoral students from YaBiNaPA at a network meeting in Yaoundé © YaBiNaPA

Traditional African medicine is still scientifically unexplored, although a large proportion of the population (up to 90%) uses it as their primary healthcare. Experts in therapy based on ethnopharmaceutical principles are urgently needed. YaBiNaPA aims to overcome this problem by providing doctoral students with interdisciplinary and translational training and by creating a communication platform between the disciplines of biology, chemistry and pharmacology, including traditional healers. YaBiNaPA is funded by the DAAD [German Academic Exchange Service] with funds from the BMZ. Among the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, YaBiNaPA focuses in particular on SDG 3 (Good Health and Well-being) and SDG 4 (Quality Education).

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Faculty of Educational Science

Contact: Prof Dr Ulrich Gebhard(, Yasmin Goudarzi(


Black Forest National Park: Dr Kerstin Botsch (Sociology), Dr Susanne Berzborn (Ethnology)

PH Ludwigsburg: Prof. Dr Armin Lude, Maxi Ritter (Biology didactics)

Duration: 2022 - 2026

From insight to action - thoughtfulness, everyday living and socio-ecological transformation

In terms of transformative research, the conditions of the genesis of action-oriented knowledge for anchoring action - in this case biodiversity-related action - in everyday practice are investigated.

The focus in Bielefeld is on experiences of nature and their reflection - based on the assumption that a change in attitudes and practices with regard to biodiversity only has a chance if people reflexively relate their experiential, intuitive images and fantasies, their latent images of the world and people on the one hand to concrete experiences and rational ecological, political, social or cultural arguments on the other. In addition, the political self-image will be analysed, as participation is particularly important for a socio-ecological transformation. The aim of the research is 1) a qualitative reconstruction of latent ideas and fantasies or narratives about the concept of biodiversity and 2) a quantitative pre-post survey of the effect of our intervention with regard to the aforementioned socio-ecological transformation.

We see the attempt at an inner transformation of the individual as a possible leverage point to achieve a social paradigm shift starting from the individual.

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Medical School OWL, AG 1 Sustainable Environmental Health Sciences

Contact: Univ.-Prof.'in MD Claudia Hornberg (project management), Rebecca Lätzsch (M. Sc. Public Health) (project coordination), Miriam Falk-Dulisch (M. Sc. Public Health) and Susanne Lopez Lumbi (M. Sc. Public Health) (project members)

to the project in the sustainability portal

Duration: 01.01.2023 - 31.09.2023

Project & practical guide "Raising awareness and implementing climate (protection) measures and health impact aspects as cross-cutting topics in medical and medicine-related degree programmes"

Logo of the project: Globe wrapped in a stethoscope
© MedKlimaGesund project

The aim of the MedKlimaGesund project is to raise awareness of the topic of "health and climate" in the university context and to create incentives for its implementation in the education of students, especially in human medicine and other health professions. As part of the project ending date, an interdisciplinary online symposium was held with researchers and experts from the fields of climate change, sustainability and health. The findings will be used to develop a practical guide for lecturers on the topic of "Raising awareness and implementing climate (protection) measures and health impact aspects as cross-cutting topics in medical and medicine-related degree programmes".


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Faculty of Chemistry

Contact: Prof Dr Thorsten Glaser(

to the project website


Further project partners see project website

Duration: 07/2022 - 06/2026

Bio-inspired oxidation catalysis with iron complexes (BioOxCat)

Project logo with a green leaf

The decarbonisation of energy production and the sustainable use of non-renewable hydrocarbon resources from oil, gas and coal are necessary to achieve global climate targets. In this respect, the selective functionalisation of hydrocarbons through catalytic oxidation reactions is a key technology for the production of both basic and fine chemicals from natural oil and gas resources as well as new active ingredients, e.g. pharmaceutical products. Nature often uses enzymes with iron ions in the active centres for the selective oxidation of organic substrates. The aim of this research team, research unit, research group is to develop bio-inspired catalysts for os with environmentally friendly oxidising agents such as O₂ and H₂O₂.

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Faculty of Technology / CITEC - Cognitive Interaction Technology

Contact: Prof Dr Barbara Hammer(

to the project website


University of Cyprus: Prof. Dr. Marios Polycarou, KIOS Research and Innovation Centre of Excellence (Head)

KWR Water Research Institute (Netherlands) and University of Exeter (UK): Prof Dr Dragan Savich

Athens University of Economics and Business, ReSEES Laboratory on Socio-Economic and Environmental Sustainability: Prof. Dr Phoebe Kondouri

Duration: 2021 - 2027

Smart Water Futures: Designing the Next Generation of Urban Drinking Water Systems

Exemplary network for drinking water supply with limited sensor technology at only a few nodes. AI processes make it possible to provide virtual sensors at all nodes and thus address challenges such as the detection of leaks or other faults in the system.
Exemplary network for drinking water supply with limited sensor technology at only a few nodes. AI processes make it possible to provide virtual sensors at all nodes and thus address challenges such as the detection of leaks or other faults in the system. Smart Water Futures

As a result of global climate change, almost 80% of the world's population will be exposed to a high threat in terms of a safe water supply; the sixth Sustainable Development Goal formulated by the United Nations accordingly formulates the demand for clean water and sanitation. The WaterFutures project addresses the drinking water supply in cities as a highly relevant aspect of this demand against the background that 70% of the world's population is expected to live in urban regions from 2050. An interdisciplinary team is analysing the spectrum from the short-term control of drinking water networks and their medium-term planning through to long-term maintenance. The team from Bielefeld University's Machine Learning working group is contributing methods from the field of explainable AI that make it possible to make the processes manageable in the context of limited sensor technology and high computational complexity, while at the same time integrating all stakeholders involved in decision-making processes through cognitively compatible interfaces.

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Centre for Biotechnology

Contact: apl. Prof. Dr Jörn Kalinowski(

to the projectwebsite

Duration: 09/2020 - 11/2023


Schematic illustration of the project with the various work packages. The "Data integration" work package is in the centre, followed by the other work packages such as "Water treatment", "Fish behaviour" and "Fish health". Next to it is a list of five different fish species. At the bottom of the picture are the flags of the five participating project countries: Norway, Greece, Germany, Finland and Portugal.
Sintef Ocean

Sustainable aquaculture systems are one of the strongest pillars for achieving the key UN Sustainable Development Goals, in particular SDG 14 (Life Below Water), SGD 2 (Zero Hunger), SDG 12 (Sustainable Consumption & Production) and SDG 13 (Climate Action). The most important advantages of land-based recirculating aquaculture systems are the improved possibilities for optimising fish health and yield as well as improved waste management. The DIGIRAS project aims to explore these benefits systematically and at all levels in order to achieve concrete improvements in such aquaculture systems.


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Faculty of Sociology

Contact: Prof Dr Minh Nguyen(

to the project website

Duration: 2019 - 2024

Labour and Welfare in the Global South: "Welfare for Migrant Factory Workers: Moral Struggles and Politics of Care under Market Socialism" (Welfare Struggles)

A group of people from the project stand together.
© Minh Nguyen

How do welfare systems provide for workers in market economies ruled by communist party states? To answer this question, the EU-funded WelfareStruggles project turned to China and Vietnam. These are countries that have transformed themselves from former centrally planned economies into market economies and introduced a system that is now referred to as "market socialism". This transformation has been driven by the labour of millions of migrant workers from rural areas, many of whom are employed in global factories in urban and industrial centres. In this context, the project focuses on the provision of social services to migrant workers and their families. With the support of an ethnographic approach and comparative social policy analysis, it will shed light on the politics of care that underlies the provision of social benefits to workers in these so-called factories of the world.

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Faculty of Business Administration and Economics

Contact: Prof Dr Christiane Fuchs(, Julian Wäsche, Houda Yaqine

to the project website


Helmholtz Munich

Helmholtz Centre Hereon

Duration: 12/2022 - 11/2025


The researchers involved in the OPTI-TRIALS joint project between Bielefeld University, Helmholtz Munich and the Helmholtz Centre Hereon want to find ways to reduce the number of animals used in medical tests and at the same time gain more knowledge. To this end, methods are to be developed that manage with fewer measuring points and still provide meaningful data. In addition to mathematical models, estimation methods and hypothesis tests, the centre is also developing software and training courses.

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