Prioritizing areas of specialization in research and academics
In a clear articulation of TU Berlin objectives, in July 2012 the Academic Senate unanimously decided to actively promote a new vision in research and academics by designating six core research priorities and by defining the related competencies and social obligations. These considerations were the result of the internal discussion process that was set in motion by a strategy paper submitted by the President of TU Berlin in December 2011.
TU Berlin's academic profile is characterized by two key components; the first: distinguished activities and projects such as those associated with Germany's Excellence Initiative, "Knowledge and Innovation Communities" of the European Institute for Innovation and Technology (EIT), collaborative research initiatives, and graduate schools emerging from pure research or from public policy-driven funding streams. Secondly, innovation centers have been established at TU Berlin for strategic purposes. Their goal is to promote inter and trans-disciplinary research on cutting-edge issues.
Our Key Application Areas
Below, we describe the key application areas that distinguish TU Berlin as a technical university and that are representative of our strongly research-oriented core subjects:
- Materials, Design and Manufacturing
This key application area encompasses innovations in the material sciences utilizing a holistic examination of the production systems and development lines needed to manufacture marketable products, both vertically starting with the initial idea and ending with the finished product, as well as horizontally across various products and resources and including recycling issues. This approach also takes user perspectives into account, and the subject is presented according to a holistic concept in the context of university academic programs. TU Berlin has successfully positioned itself in this field ? not only in the material and production sciences ? but also in life sciences such as biotechnology, medical technology, food technology, in addition to communications and photovoltaic technologies. The entire field is purposefully networked with the core subjects "Energy Systems and Sustainable Resource Management" and "Cyber-Physical Systems". The main social responsibility concerns focus on the sustainable development of beneficial processes/products, in addition to technological innovation that can achieve broad societal acceptance.
- Cyber-Physical Systems
Cyber-Physical Systems (according to acatech) are systems that serve to fuse the physical and virtual worlds and currently a hot topic in cutting-edge research endeavors. The National Science Foundation in the US has actively supported this field since 2006 on the basis of numerous projects and programs. So just what are cyber-physical systems? Even today, more than 95 percent of all microprocessors are integrated into common everyday items and appliances, i.e. devices that can communicate with the outside world via sensors and actuators. Increasingly, these devices are interconnected with each other and with the Internet, and it is on the basis of this interconnectivity that cyber-physical systems emerge. TU Berlin possesses numerous research competencies in this overall field, for instance in imbedded systems, non-linear physics, biologically oriented chemistry, biotechnology, cognitive robotics, neurocomputational sciences, knowledge research, medical technologies, in addition to information and communication technology. In ways that are unconceivable even today, the cyber-physical systems of the future will make significant contributions to the safety, efficiency, comfort and health of the general population, and thereby will contribute to finding solutions to the central challenges facing society, e.g. aging populations, dwindling resources, mobility, and evolving energy needs.
- Energy Systems and Sustainable Resource Management
This key application area encompasses TU Berlin's research activities in the field of energy technology, aspects of new energy policies, climate change, water supply, and how best to handle our limited resources in general. Areas of research presently focus on efficient gas turbines, photovoltaic systems, networks and functional energy storage, energy-efficient cities, and water supplies. Scientific innovations and their impacts on production and consumption patterns play pivotal roles in this process, as do local environmental factors. In close cooperation with the core subjects "Materials, Design and Manufacturing" and "Infrastructure and Mobility", research focuses on topics such as new energy sources, energy supplies, sustainable production and recycling processes and regenerative energies. Research of this kind is essential in terms of sustaining future living standards and ensuring energy supplies for society at large.
- Infrastructure and Mobility
Against the backdrop of climate change, demographic trends and economic changes, this key application area addresses the challenges and opportunities in terms of how we can appropriately shape future infrastructures and mobility frameworks. Particular emphasis is given to promoting and planning individual mobility, both in cultural, social, spatial, and economic terms. In close cooperation with the five other core subjects, research here focuses on optimizing settlement development in urban and regional environments, understanding policy decisions with respect to infrastructural measures, and developing technical and traffic engineering measures and related technical innovations, for instance in the areas of eMobility or networking. At the core of this discipline: a comprehensive approach to understanding societal processes and individual actions, assessing ecological impacts of human activities, and optimizing technical and economic investments in human habitats.
- Knowledge and Communication Systems
This key application area explores and expands on existing knowledge and the information and communications systems that will be required in order to ensure sustainable societies and under consideration of our dynamically progressing scientific-technical world. Innovative and powerful contributions are needed that can expand human knowledge and communications options. Emphasis is given to interaction between different knowledge and communications systems, in particular processes that can generate new knowledge. TU Berlin actively addresses a broad range of research topics such as "Information and Communication Technologies (ICT)", networked with "Knowledge and Information Communities (KIC)" of the European Institute of Innovation & Technology (EIT); Systematic Knowledge Research; Work System Design; Human-Machine Interface Systems; Cultural Reflection, Ethics and Gender-Critical Perspectives of Knowledge and Communications Systems; and Technology, Innovation and Knowledge Management. The challenges and problems facing modern societies can no longer be managed on the sole basis of individual knowledge and communications-related disciplines. TU Berlin is facing these challenges head-on by offering dedicated support for transdisciplinary cooperative projects and sustainable solutions.
- Human Health
Ever-increasing life expectancies pose enormous challenges for the society of the future. Demographic trends will necessitate new tasks for people over the age of 70, preventative strategies to avoid age-related diseases will be required, in addition to conducting research on gender-specific health issues and innovative diagnostic and therapeutic technologies. It seems evident that the only solution to this problem is for people to remain healthy for as long as possible. TU Berlin increasingly sees itself as an essential building block in the Berlin-Brandenburg region of healthcare facilities and providers. The broad spectrum of research topics we cover includes health system management, gender research, health economics, ethics and philosophy of life sciences, developing biocompatible materials, food chemistry, food and beverage technology, medical technology, computer-brain interfaces, developing antiviral strategies, pain research, breeding human micro-organs for pharmaceutical testing, and even new transplantation methods. This pivotal field provides new opportunities for various types of cooperation with Berlin's Charité Medical Center, as well as with other extramural research facilities.
We purposefully cluster our considerable competencies around an inner shell of key application areas, fields in which TU Berlin possesses strong cross-disciplinary competencies that are of pivotal importance for our university in its role as a leading technical university. These include:
Planning and Management
These competencies are clustered around the various key application areas (see above), an approach that clearly emphasizes both their equivalence and cross-disciplinary character.
As illustrated in the figure at the top of the page, the outer shell represents the responsibility that we as a technical university must bear vis-à-vis the general public and the expectations society places on us. We have condensed these commitments and responsibilities into five groups.
- Beneficial Processes and Products
One central task of a technical university is to conduct research into technical procedures and product manufacture. This involves different research capacities from very different spheres and combined in diverse constellations ranging from social issues to MINT-related fields and even economics. Cross-faculty and trans-university examples of this approach include projects such as "Unifying Concepts in Catalysis", which carries out research on catalytic reaction mechanisms and the design of new catalytic materials and strategies. The goal of "Sustainable Production Technology" is to bring about a paradigm change, i.e. from a predominately productivity-oriented planning and control approach to value creation, towards a more resource-conscious process design. These examples typify our commitment to structuring these processes in a socially responsible manner.
- Technological Innovation
Society expects technical universities to formulate technological innovations, which are indeed the key to ensuring successful economic development. The university is thus committed to focusing its research efforts on new technologies and initiating forward-looking industrial processes, both in a socially responsible manner and in dialogue with extramural partners and policy-makers. To achieve this objective, solution strategies are required that can find answers to the problems facing civil society, e.g. climate change and how to best confront new societal challenges.
- Knowledge Management
Knowledge Management denotes the acquisition, processing and dissemination of information, as well as the generation and management of existing and newly-acquired knowledge, in particular as regards various social and scientific characteristics and disciplines. The overriding concept entails the following commitments and responsibilities: intelligent knowledge networking, avoiding information overload, reflecting on science and technology as they relate to humane culture, scientific development in response to challenges posed by modern knowledge-based societies, knowledge transfer in both practical and societal spheres, strengthening an ethical approach to science and technology issues, and intensifying dialogue between the scientific and public arenas. TU Berlin is already actively honoring these commitments in various fields, for instance through the activities of the "Center for Scientific Research", "Center for Women and Gender Research", "Center for Metropolitan Studies", "Knowledge and Information Communities (KIC)", in transport systems, in architecture, urban and landscape planning, as well as in technology and innovation management. Our university will continue to assume these responsibilities vis-à-vis society at large.
- Education and Creating New Job Areas
Our society is based on the use and development of highly advanced technological processes and products. However, the societal demands put on such technological processes and products have substantially evolved, which in turn has resulted in a lack of qualified workers, and university graduates in particular. Our society thus requires research that can as early as possible identify the technologies and related applications to meet future needs, an excellent education resulting in well-rounded specialists, and support for graduates in establishing new businesses. It is on the basis of this forward-looking approach that we carry out our academic and research activities in cooperation with actors from industry and civil society. In recognition of our university's achievements in this area, since 2011we have held the distinction of an "EXIST - Gründerschule", a dedicated scheme that supports university-based start-ups. Examples of activities in support of new job areas include a start-up service provided by the Center for Entrepreneurship in the form of support programs for high-growth start-ups, as well as our participation in the Charlottenburg Business Incubator and Innovation Centre (CHIC). Our competencies are not only dedicated to providing our students and graduates with the research-based learning they will need to be successful in existing professions, we also help to actively shape the professions of tomorrow, for which our graduates will be well qualified. Moreover, a competent start-up service actively supports of our students in their endeavors.
- Competitive Qualification
Ensuring a high-quality and internationally-competitive first rate education at all levels is a societal task. TU Berlin is wholly committed to tackling this challenge, and will continue to do so in the future. Our study programs are characterized by an orientation towards research-linked concepts and theories. We confront our students with research-related issues and methods as early as possible. TU Berlin's early support in implementing the Bologna Process now gives students the opportunities and options they need to successfully expand their educational horizons, in addition to international exchange programs with numerous partner universities and enhanced academic flexibility in the form of personalized curricula round. At the same time, students have broader access to advanced graduate level qualification courses, a further example of our commitment to an excellent research-based university education. With the Berlin Mathematical School serving as the model, new standards will be developed that will create new opportunities for exceptional scholars. In the future, these students will be able to obtain more advanced qualifications, even if they do not possess the usual prerequisite diploma.