Karlsruher Institute for Technology: Fascination with science: With bioeconomy out of the ecological crisis

The growing population and the rising standard of living pose great ecological challenges for our society: from climate change to littering of the oceans to dwindling agricultural land and raw materials. One goal of the bioeconomy is to replace fossil raw material sources with renewable raw materials and renewable energy sources and to use advanced and sustainable technologies based on biological knowledge and principles. Visions and questions about the bioeconomy, the main topic of the current Science Year, were the focus of the first digital annual celebration of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT).

“Many people today think about the future of our planet with concern – and unfortunately there are justified reasons for this,” said the President of KIT, Professor Holger Hanselka , at the annual celebration. “From climate change and water crises to dwindling agricultural land and raw materials – many of our global problems are of human origin. The transformation of our economy in the sense of a sustainable and science-based bioeconomy is the logical consequence. At KIT, we see it as our responsibility to help develop the necessary technologies and strategies and to examine the risks and effects of proposed solutions. We want to support decision-makers in politics, business and society in particular. “

The KIT is excellently positioned to meet these challenges and is also networked with strong partners from industry: “Innovations and expertise from the KIT are already in great demand, including in the areas of bioenergy, renewable fuels, innovative recycling, and sustainable construction,” said Hanselka . The KIT scientists also developed, for example, novel algae polymers or breeding methods for more resistant crops. “We are working on a sustainable future – and think from basic research to application.”

Highlights of 2019 and 2020
In addition to the top topics from science, the President’s review of the past two years focused on a very current milestone: In February 2021, the federal and state governments agreed on further steps to complete the nationwide unique merger at KIT. “We worked a long time towards this moment. Among other things, we expect more flexibility and agility in cutting-edge research because we can make better use of the unique synergies, ”said Hanselka. How well the KIT already acts today as a unit was shown not least by the success in the Excellence Strategy and the very good ratings in the program-oriented funding of the Helmholtz Association.

In her video greeting for the annual celebration, the Federal Minister of Education and Research, Anja Karliczek , thanked the members of the KIT for continuing to dedicate themselves fully to teaching and research even under the difficult conditions that the pandemic brings with it: “We need excellent teaching and cutting-edge research in order to be well positioned for the future. In the future, scientific strength lies in strong networks of different partners. The KIT is a pioneer and therefore a pillar for prosperity and competition. “

“As the research university in the Helmholtz Association, the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology can offer research, teaching and innovation from a single source. It is precisely this ability of KIT to bring things together that we urgently need in the future, ”said Theresia Bauer, Minister for Science, Research and the Arts Baden-Württemberg . “We rely on KIT when it comes to global challenges and key technologies of the future. Because the KIT is doing pioneering work and is always at the forefront – whether in the research of autonomous driving or in the innovation campus mobility of the future in cooperation with the University of Stuttgart, but also in matters of energy storage or regenerative energy production. “

“The passing of the second KIT further development law was an important milestone. The KIT can continue to establish itself as a unique and excellent scientific institution, also far beyond the borders of Germany ”, said the chairman of the supervisory board of the KIT, Professor Michael Kaschke . “The promotion of the next generation of scientists, the increase of the transfer performance and the increase of the international visibility are essential topics. All of this can only succeed if the KIT achieves a high degree of autonomy. As chairman of the supervisory board of KIT, supporting me is a great motivation. “

At the annual celebration, scientists from the KIT discussed the potential of the bioeconomy to point a way out of the climate crisis. Also in the panel discussion were Dr. Christine Rösch, Head of the Sustainable Bioeconomy Research Group at the Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis, Professor Jörg Sauer, Head of the Institute for Catalysis Research and Technology and one of those responsible for research at the bioliq ® pilot plant at KIT, and Professor Almut Arneth from the Institute for Meteorology and Climate Research, who is also the lead author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change special report on climate change and land systems.

The corona pandemic also posed challenges for teaching at KIT, said Professor Alexander Wanner, Vice President for Teaching and Academic Affairs of KIT . Courses offered online were implemented in a very short time and in a great effort. “It is impressive how determined, creative and committed the teachers have done and are doing everything to ensure that studying remains possible even during the lockdown phases and that this time is not lost for the students,” said Wanner.

The KIT recognized the special commitment of the teachers at the annual celebration by awarding the faculty teaching prizes. The 22 award winners were nominated by the eleven KIT faculties with the involvement of the respective student councils and study committees.

As “The Research University in the Helmholtz Association”, KIT creates and imparts knowledge for society and the environment. The aim is to make significant contributions to global challenges in the fields of energy, mobility and information. To this end, around 9,600 employees work together on a broad disciplinary basis in the natural, engineering, economic, humanities and social sciences. The KIT prepares its 23,300 students for responsible tasks in society, economy and science through a research-oriented university course. The innovation activity at KIT bridges the gap between knowledge and application for social benefit, economic prosperity and the preservation of our natural foundations of life.

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