The Wuppertal Institute sees itself as a leading international think tank for sustainability research focused on impacts and practical application. The organisation's activities are centred on developing transformation processes aimed at shaping a climate-friendly and resource-efficient world.
The overriding goal of the Institute's work is to help to respect the planetary boundaries. This is represented in the guiding vision of a "climate-neutral and resource light society" by 2050.
The following are key characteristics of the Institute's research.
Building on the foundations of traditional scientific work, focused on individual disciplines, an interdisciplinary approach is taken to addressing sustainability problems. The Institute pursues science on a transdisciplinary basis: rather than being merely an observer, the scientific community plays an active part in the transformation processes. Transformative research (transition research) and work in real-world laboratories constitute the Institute's conceptual framework.
The Wuppertal Institute's research projects focus on the stakeholders who are actively involved on the ground and are usually conducted in close cooperation with them. The Institute sees itself as an intermediary between the worlds of science, industry and politics. Therefore, it takes the future application of its research into consideration in order to ensure that the findings are of great practical benefit to decision makers.
All of the Institute's research projects are highly innovative. Its work is also concerned with analysing the effectiveness of innovations in regards to achieving the climate protection and resource efficiency goals. Innovations that facilitate systemic advances (next-level innovation) are of particular interest. They would appear to be essential to achieving the core Sustainable Development Goals in good time; however, they are often associated with intentional and sometimes unintentional structural changes.
The research carried out by the Wuppertal Institute is integrative in many respects. On the one hand, it takes a holistic approach by interlinking climate, energy and resource objectives. Economic and institutional considerations are combined with cultural and social concerns. On the other hand, the Institute's activities are multiscale, meaning that it performs analyses at micro (local level, individual businesses, households), meso (regional level, industries and associations) and macro levels (national, European and global analyses).
This comprehensive, integrative approach is characteristic of the Wuppertal Institute's identity as well as being its USP when it comes to sustainability research. This concept of integration has five core dimensions that play a defining role for the Institute and its work and have been consistently developed in terms of content and methodology in recent years: