Cutting-edge research on sustainability

Transdisciplinary Research Area Innovation and Technology for Sustainable Futures

Sustainability means using resources in a way that the needs of today are met without neglecting or even disregarding the needs of future generations. This raises questions in a wide range of areas: poverty, hunger, food security, demographic change, health, protection of the environment, climate change and the responsible use of resources pose a global challenge for us all. To achieve progress with regards to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, our researchers apply an interdisciplinary approach focused on solutions combined with basic research, actively engage in global networks and collaborate with Bonn-based UN organizations.

© Bialek/Uni Bonn

About the TRA 

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Importance of Sustainable Development Goals

Sustainability: The significance of the Sustainable Development Goals

Prof. Dr. Joachim von Braun, Center for Development Research (ZEF) and former Speaker of TRA Sustainable Futures, outlines the significance of the UN's sustainable development goals for global development.


The lecture series "Innovation Pathways to Sustainability" welcomes its first speaker in 2023. On 6th of April 2023, at 13:30 CEST we will host Prof. Dr. Michels. More information here.

TRA Sustainable Futures welcomes J.Prof. Dr. Wolfram Barfuss as new Argelander Professor for Integrated System Modeling for Sustainablity Transitions to the University of Bonn.

Members directory: From now on, members of TRA Sustainable Futures can be found by name or by their research focus.

TRA Sustainable Futures announces the Klaus Töpfer Research Prize 2023 open for all members. We hope to receive interesting and innovative applications until 31.03.2023.

Our Open Call for seed funding is still available to all TRA members. Please feel free to contact us in advance if you have any questions.

Report on the General Meeting of TRA Sustainable Futures

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Member meeting TRA 6 on 15.12.2022 top right: Ute Nöthlings, newly elected TRA speaker below from left: Prof. Dr. Jan Börner, re-elected TRA speaker, Prof. Joachim von Braun, former TRA speaker and Prof. Dr. Christopher McCool, presenting the project AI4Crops © Christina Schiegl

On December 15th 2022, the members of TRA Sustainable Futures met again to exchange ideas and to decide on important directions for 2023. With broad approval, changes in the administrative structure were voted for. We congratulate the new TRA speaker Prof. Ute Nöthlings and the re-elected TRA speaker Prof. Jan Börner. Our thanks go to the now former speaker Prof. Joachim von Braun and Prof. Gabriel Schaaf, who left the Steering Committee of TRA Sustainable Futures.    

In the main plenary, overviews of TRA's development and reports on funded projects were presented. In addition, members were able to actively discuss with each other in three open barcamp groups. The diverse topics were suggested by members themselves. They were about possible applications of infrared sensors in measuring activity of animal live stock, which help to make decisions for more animal welfare. Another group addressed the rights of future generations and the ethical question of the duty not to leave irreversible damage to the environment with current decisions and actions, especially due to climate change and biodiversity loss. The third barcamp addressed the implications of COP27 (Climate Change Conference in Sharm El-Sheikh, November 2022) for the TRA Sustainable Futures research agenda, including centrally the question: what interdisciplinary research is currently essential to enable a sustainable future through innovation and technology?

We look forward to further networking opportunities in TRA Sustainable Futures.

Award of the Klaus Töpfer Research Prize 2022


During our general meeting on July 12, 2022, Dr. Melanie Braun from INRES was awarded the Klaus Töpfer Research Prize 2022. Her project idea "Colloidal and Nanoplastics in Soil" prevailed over strong competition in a multi-stage review process. With the help of the prize money of €50,000, Melanie Braun now wants to develop an analytical method that can be used to quantify the smallest plastic particles in soil.

Prof. Dr. Joachim von Braun said at the award ceremony: "Melanie Braun's project fits perfectly with our focus on modeling, foresight and risk assessment capacity, as it provides for the first time data on soil pollution by nanoplastics that can later be used for forecasting and other purposes."

Dr. Klaus Töpfer (on the left in the picture) took the journey to Bonn for the first presentation of the award that bears his name and used his speaking time to emphasize, among other things: "In the question of how we can still feed the growing world population in the future, research on soil is immensely important."

In her acceptance speech, Dr. Braun explained the motivation behind the project idea: "There has been evidence that soils receive plastic input, mainly by agricultural practices like application of sewage sludge and compost as well as irrigation. As soils are one of the most important bases of our food production, there is an urgent need to investigate the prevalence of colloidal and nano-sized plastics in soil, to adequately safeguard worlds food production."

To the complete report including a video.

Press releases
First PhenoRob Career Fair

Students and graduates of the University of Bonn are welcome to participate in the first PhenoRob Career Fair to expand their professional network.

Meat import ban in Africa hurts local population

The EU regularly exports large quantities of poultry meat to West African countries. These exports have been criticized for harming importing countries in West Africa and exacerbating poverty there. The reason: Cheap imports depress the local price of chicken, making life difficult for local smallholders. Researchers at the Universities of Bonn and Göttingen have now used the example of Ghana to calculate the effects that would result if the country were to significantly increase its import tariffs for poultry meat or even stop imports completely. The result: Prices would indeed rise domestically, but most local households would not benefit. The study has been published in the journal Food Security.

Justus von Liebig-Award for World Nutrition to Louise O. Fresco

For outstanding achievements in the fight against hunger and rural poverty, the Foundation fiat panis has awarded the Justus von Liebig-Award for World Nutrition for the seventh time. This year it goes to the Dutch agricultural and nutrition expert Prof. Dr. Louise O. Fresco. The award ceremony took place at the Center for Development Research (ZEF) at the University of Bonn. Fresco gave a lecture on "Where Are We in Understanding World Hunger" as part of the Distinguished Lectures Series of the Transdisciplinary Research Area "Sustainable Futures" at the University of Bonn.

Close alliance in Earth System Science

The University of Bonn, the University of Cologne and Forschungszentrum Jülich are placing their joint Center for Earth System Observation and Computational Analysis (CESOC) on a new contractual footing. As a joint scientific facility of the three partner institutions, an internationally visible focal point has been created to globally observe and comprehensively understand the Earth system and to predict changes. The center is additionally strengthened by a memorandum of understanding now signed with the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), which has moved to Bonn in 2021.

Press review

Members of TRA Sustainable Futures in the media (in German)


Prof. Dr. Ute Nöthlings
Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences (IEL) - Nutritional Epidemiology

Prof. Dr. Jan Börner
Institute for Food and Resource Economics (ILR)


Dr. Daniel Minge
Manager TRA Sustainable Futures

Strategic Development and Quality Assurance
Vice Rectorate for Research and Early-Career Researchers

Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn 
Poppelsdorfer Allee 24
53115 Bonn  

Phone:  +49 175/103 89 57

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