TransformativeScienceResearch Prize

In 2017, the "Transformative Science" research prize has been offered for the first time by the Wuppertal Institute and the Zempelin Foundation in the Donors' Association for the Promotion of Humanities and Sciences in Germany (Stifterverband). Now the prize will be awarded for the third time.

The "Transformative Science" research prize focuses on all forms of research that spark and promote social impetus and thus involve civil society. Transdisciplinary research design plays a significant role in this. The research prize is endowed with 25,000 euros. The money is awarded to prize winners for their project ideas in the field of transformative science. The Wuppertal Institute awards the research prize, which is funded by the Zempelin Foundation in the Donors' Association for the Promotion of Humanities and Sciences in Germany (Stifterverband). The Wuppertal Institute sees it as recognition of its achievements in this field that the Donors' Association commissioned the Institute to coordinate the award of the Zempelin Foundation-sponsored prize for "Transformative Science".

The 2018 winner

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.

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

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 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.

Real-world laboratory with a map of Karlsruhe's Oststadt
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
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.

The jury and its selection criteria 2018

The jury attaches great importance to the social relevance of the subject and to the quality and innovative character of the research design. The prize winners are expected to be role models for other researchers. The jury agreed that Laura Woltersdorf's work was an outstanding example of a transdisciplinary research project in the context of development cooperation.

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 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"

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.