“We are seeking solutions for the major challenges facing society. We want to work together as equals with our non-academic partners to help find these solutions,” says TU Berlin vice president Professor Christine Ahrend. “We want to make our knowledge available for society and at the same time make use of non-university knowledge in our work. This will enable us to better understand climate change, urbanization and future mobility and adopt a solution-based and practically oriented approach in our research on these issues.
Christine Ahrend´s team has developed a range of concepts to address the themes of research, appointment strategy, and knowledge and transfer - the themes for which Professor Ahrend is responsible in her capacity as vice president. The New Urban Agenda Berlin pilot project has enabled the development of transdisciplinary research projects while TU Berlin has contributed a transdisciplinary work program for the Berlin University Alliance. In the future, we should also see more practical labs dealing with urban transformation. Transdisciplinary formats, or “TRAFOs”, are essential for this strategy. These include different offers from the TU dialogue platform. Since 2018, the dialogue platform has conducted numerous idea, networking, and methods workshops together with TU researchers and members of society as well as a conference to develop research and joint project ideas. The second key element is the Pre-Research Forum, a joint format offered by Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, TU Berlin, and Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin to bring together science and non-scientific expertise. Another example is provided by transdisciplinary trialogues where stakeholders from science, politics, business and society focus on urban development, including topics such as migration, mobility, growth, and tourism.
Citizen science projects are becoming increasingly important as a way of conducting research with society. Christine Ahrend announced a first call to stimulate funding for citizen science projects. Four such projects were able to get under way in autumn 2018 with funding of 300,000 euros. “We are pursuing a holistic approach through citizen science projects,” says biotechnologist Professor Dr.-Ing. Vera Meyer of the Chair of Applied and Molecular Biology and head of the “Mind the Fungi!” project. “On the one hand we want to awaken a passion for science and show people how science comes into being. But we also want to give them the chance to actively share in our ideas and experiences. In other words, we are looking to use collective intelligence for the benefit of all.” Vera Meyer is a member of the Knowledge and Technology Transfer Steering Committee, which was set up about a year ago by Christine Ahrend as part of an auditing process conducted by the Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft on knowledge and technology transfer Professors from all faculties work in this committee to gain an overview of each other´s activities in the area of transfer and to examine how they can collaborate with the University´s various services to develop TU Berlin´s strengths in the area of transfer. The focus here is on teaching activities; funding start-ups; exchanging knowledge with society, political decision-makers, and industry; and patents and (open access) publications. This includes activities both within and beyond the University, reaching out to additional target groups through the Long Night of the Sciences or Girl’s and Boy’s events by, for example, approaching schools and other public institutions.