TransformingBasic Industriesfor the Future

Energy-intensive industries – chiefly steel, glass, chemicals, aluminium, paper and cement manufacturing – play a major role in our economy. These sectors produce the basic materials for infrastructure, buildings, machinery, and consumption goods. At the same time, they are responsible for a vast share of energy and resource consumption, as well as greenhouse gas emissions.

North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) is a global hub for numerous energy-intensive industries. The development of strategies for decarbonisation and resource efficiency is not only crucial for achieving global sustainability, but also for the future of NRW’s economy. It is against this background that the Wuppertal Institute closely works together with representatives of leading corporations and organisations from these industries in various projects. Beyond the state of NRW, the institute is equally active nationally, at European level, and globally. The work of the Wuppertal Institute focuses on the analysis of the correlation between energy-intensive production processes and the opportunities and risks of the energy transition (Energiewende), the identification of future low-carbon process technologies, and the necessary framework conditions for their successful development and implementation.

Energy-intensive steel production
Energy-intense steel production is responsible for a large share of the global energy and resource use as well as greenhouse gas emissions. This is why it is important to transform the industry with sustainable innovations, such as direct reduction with hydrogen.

Shaping structural change innovations

The Wuppertal Institute's work spans the analysis of complex energy systems' and scenarios, the assessment of resource flows along value chains, and the evaluation of innovation systems of energy-intensive industries and regions. In the process of doing so, the Wuppertal Institute investigates possible paths for structural transformation and innovation that are compatible with economic and ecological sustainability. A special feature of our research is that is transdisciplinary, whereby the projects are implemented in close interaction with industry actors. Our aim is to explore and design sustainable paths with industry and civil society in joint learning processes and, on this basis, develop both policy and corporate strategies. As part of this approach, WI scientists accompany firms in their processes of sustainability and innovation management, addressing key areas for innovation in the value chain – such as dematerialisation, eco-design strategies and Industry 4.0.

Stefan Lechtenböhmer

Basic industries are a key sector for climate neutrality and resource efficiency.

Prof. Dr. Stefan Lechtenböhmer
Director of the Future Energy and Industry Systems Division


You find more information on the transformation of the economy here:


Here you find up-to-date information on research findings and activities.


Here you find research activities in the field of energy intensive industries. A complete list is available here.

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