Real-World Laboratory Wins "Transformative Science" Research Prize

Award goes to transformative project "District Future – Urban Lab"

  • Press Releases 30.11.2018
KIT future space
The "Zukunftsraum für Nachhaltigkeit und Wissenschaft" (future space for sustainability and science) is the name of the project office in Karlsruhe’s Oststadt district and has now become Karlsruhe’s sustainability hub. Source: Quartier Zukunft/KIT

How can we live sustainably in urban districts? What should our towns and cities look like in the future? How should urban change be organised to be fit for the future? To find out the answers to these questions, a team of researchers from Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) is working with project partners to test out new ideas in Karlsruhe’s Oststadt district. The real-world laboratory "Quartier Zukunft – Labor Stadt" (District Future – Urban Lab) aims to help improve quality of life and make it more sustainable. With its innovative real-world laboratory concept, the team headed by Dr. Oliver Parodi has won the "Transformative Science" research award and prize money of 25,000 euros. This is now the second time that the Wuppertal Institute and the Zempelin Foundation in the Donors' Association (Stifterverband) have awarded this research prize. The official award presentation will take place on 16 January 2019 as part of the Darmstadt "Tage der Transformation" (Transformation Days) at the Schader Forum.

Climate change, a shortage of resources, demographic change, indebted public finances and social inequalities call for comprehensive, sustainable development – at local and global level. In many respects, towns and cities have a central role to play on the journey towards a transformation affecting the whole of society, aiming to achieve a lifestyle that is fit for the future. But how can urban areas be transformed into sustainable living environments?

In Karlsruhe, they are taking action. With the support of partners including the "Reallabor 131: KIT findet Stadt" real-world laboratory project funded by the Baden-Württemberg Ministry for Science, Research and Art (MWK Baden-Württemberg), the real-world laboratory "Quartier Zukunft – Labor Stadt" (District Future – Urban Lab) is trialling a culture of sustainability. The transdisciplinary research and development project from KIT aims to work with local residents to make a city district an area with a future suitable for the next generation. For this purpose, the Head of Project, Dr. Oliver Parodi, and his multidisciplinary team are investigating the questions of how sustainable urban living can succeed and how European cities can be transformed into sustainable living environments.

The jury was particularly impressed by the innovative concept addressed in the real-world laboratory's approach and by its close involvement at a local level. As a result, the project is this year's recipient of the "Transformative Science" research prize. "The real-world laboratory in the Oststadt district is one of the most extensively developed real-world neighbourhood laboratories in Germany. In Karlsruhe, many innovative formats are setting an example for how fruitful the joint development of knowledge can be for the scientific community and stakeholders on the ground when it comes to future-proof urban development," says Professor Uwe Schneidewind, President of the Wuppertal Institute.

The official award presentation will begin at 2.30 p.m. on 16 January 2019 as part of the "Tage der Transformation" (Transformation Days) at the Schader Forum, Goethestraße 2, Darmstadt. With the "Tage der Transformation" in Darmstadt, the Schader Foundation has established a new format to address themes from transformative research and scientific work.

Real-world laboratory: "District Future – Urban Lab"

The urban lab is an approximately 130-year-old city district in Karlsruhe's Oststadt. The research team works closely with local people, civil society, policymakers, the council and other local stakeholders on the ground. By doing so, it links scientific expertise with local knowledge to create a collaborative experimental space: "Our society will only develop sustainably when all those involved take part in the development process," states Head of Project, Oliver Parodi, with conviction. As part of the research and development project "District Future – Urban Lab", promising technological and social innovations conceived by and with KIT will be put into practice. Parodi adds: "The range of topics extends from the transformation of the urban energy system to everyday climate-friendly behaviour and the slowing down of our way of life."
In 2017, the project was awarded the "Project Sustainability 2017" quality seal by the German Council for Sustainable Development (RNE) and recognised as one of the country’s four “transformational projects”. The quality seal highlights social initiatives that are making a special contribution towards sustainable development.
Use of the prize money

The project team intends to invest 10,000 euros as start-up capital in the society to support the planned "Karlsruhe Transformation Centre for Sustainable Futures and Cultural Change" and thereby strengthen sustainability initiatives launched by civil society. The research team plans to use 7,500 euros to support visiting scientists from abroad who want to visit the District Future or to help refugees who have a connection to transformation research and would like to develop future prospects in this field. The remaining prize money will be set aside for the microfinancing of active partners, such as an initiative supporting neighbourly relations in the Oststadt district, wild urban bees or a platform for sustainable consumption at the local level.

About the "Transformative Science" research prize

The "Transformative Science" research prize is aimed at all forms of research that inspire society, promote social change and thereby engage the civil society. Transdisciplinary research design plays an important role in this process. The award-winners receive 25,000 euros in prize money. This money goes to support the winners in implementing their project ideas in the field of transformative science. In addition to the prize money of 25,000 euros, the winning team receives a sculpture that has been forged from the steel rails of the Wuppertal suspension railway – the Schwebebahn – built in 1898. The research prize, funded by the Zempelin Foundation in the Donors’ Association (Stifterverband), is being awarded by the Wuppertal Institute for the second time this year.
The seven members of the jury are:

  • Prof. Dr. Claudia Hornberg
    from the University of Bielefeld, Faculty of Health Sciences; working group 7 Environment and Health
  • Prof. Dr. Heike Köckler
    from the Hochschule für Gesundheit (University of Applied Sciences), Dean of the Department of Community Health, Professor for social environment and physical health
  • Prof. Dr. Jasmin Mantilla-Contreras
    from the University of Hildesheim, Institute of Biology and Chemistry; working group for Ecology and Environmental Education
  • Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Marquardt
    Chairman of the Board of Directors of Forschungszentrum Jülich Research Centre
  • Dr. Volker Meyer-Guckel
    Deputy Secretary-General and member of the executive board of the Donors' Association for the Promotion of Humanities and Sciences in Germany (Stifterverband), Head of "Programmes and Funding"
  • Prof. Dr. Roland Scholz
    Chief Senior Scientist and visiting professor at the Danube University Krems
  • Dr. Steffi Ober
    Initiator and Head of the "Civil Society Platform 'Forschungswende'"


Joint press release

Wuppertal Institut für Klima, Umwelt, Energie gGmbH
Responsible for content: Prof. Dr. Uwe Schneidewind, Präsident
Contact: Christin Hasken, Head of Communications
Tel.: +49 202 2492-187
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Contact: Anke Meis, Communication and Marketing
Tel.: +49 201 8401-204

Karlsruher Institut für Technologie (KIT)
Contact: Monika Landgraf, Head of Corporate Communications, Chief Press Officer
Tel.: +49 721 608-21150
E-mail: monika

Contact: Peter Lonitz, Scientific Advisor
Tel.: +49 6151 1759-17

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Printable pictures

Future space for sustainability and science
The "Zukunftsraum für Nachhaltigkeit und Wissenschaft" (future space for sustainability and science) is the name of the project office in Karlsruhe's Oststadt district and has now become Karlsruhe's sustainability hub. Source: Quartier Zukunft/KIT

Interactive participation tool
The photograph shows a so-called interactive participation tool from the real-world laboratory with a map of Karlsruhe's Oststadt district to which cards can be added. This allows ideas or problems relating to sustainability to be raised, located, visualised 'live' and put up for discussion. Source: Quartier Zukunft/KIT

In addition to the prize money of 25,000 euros, the winning team receives a sculpture that has been forged from the steel rails of the Wuppertal suspension railway – the Schwebebahn – built in 1898. Source: Wuppertal Institute/S. Michaelis

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