Congested streets, bad air: a better quality of urban life requires new concepts for traffic.
The Rhine-Ruhr region is home to some ten million people and contains at its centre the Ruhr Area, the largest network of cities in Germany. It is also a focal point of interest for the experts on the UDE campus who are concerned with putting development trends in a global perspective: sustained growth in urban systems has far-reaching economic, sociocultural and ecological dimensions which need to be addressed. Against the backdrop of dramatic growth in world population and the inevitable urban expansion accompanying it, the living situation of most people will undergo unprecedented change even in our century.
The major issues facing contemporary and future societies are becoming increasingly urgent, particularly in an urban context. They include climate change, the energy revolution and cutting CO2, increasing mobility requirements, transformation of working methods, securing supply, and potential social conflict in multicultural life. Other subjects of analysis are the effects of high, sometimes critical, population density and social change on individual and collective identities, repercussions for health of environmental conditions and many other interrelated issues. New concepts are needed to help understand change and find innovative solutions.
Interdisciplinary research plays a major role in the development of such integrative approaches and concepts.
Researchers from over 70 departments and institutes of all faculties have turned their attention to the present and future research issues in the complex field of urban systems. They work together on an interdisciplinary basis and in cooperation with other academic, economic, social and political contributors. Their expertise is recognised at national and international level and is focused in this new main area to establish the UDE's international profile as a centre for urban research. Two of its research institutions, the Centre for Logistics & Traffic (ZLV) and Centre for Water and Environmental Research (ZWU), are key partners in this process.
In addition to international cooperation, the researchers maintain close regional and national ties with trade and industry and the local community. They look at ecological, social and economic conditions and develop integrated basic and applied concepts to accommodate a multitude of different priorities and perspectives within the confines of urban space. In addition to the environment, infrastructure and logistics/traffic, the main focus is on health, culture, society, education, and social affairs. These research fields are connected by cross-sectional research in the areas of public management, urban planning and design, and new governance structures.
Financing for the wide variety of research projects is provided by the German Research Foundation (DFG), federal government funding programmes, the European Union, and private foundations. The projects include research into evacuation scenarios for major urban agglomerations, adapting cities to climate change, and integrated concepts for energy-efficient cities. Regional land management, with a particular focus on innovative water management and energy systems, is a further area of interest. Other working groups are involved in urban traffic simulations or discussing questions of multiculturism and the economic prospects associated with it. The scope of research extends to localising integrated educational concepts in urban spaces.
The findings of the interdisciplinary research in this main area are reflected increasingly in teaching at the university. Future experts in the many fields associated with the management of urban systems will have to take a broadly based approach that looks beyond disciplinary boundaries. The participating faculties are therefore intensifying cooperation and combining course offerings to a greater extent. For example, an integrated Master programme is currently being developed in a unique combination of disciplines that are central to an understanding of the complexity of urban systems. In this way, the University of Duisburg-Essen aims to establish its international reputation as a centre for urban research and teaching.
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