The University of Duisburg-Essen views the trend toward massive urbanization in today’s world as a social challenge of utmost significance. In response to the increasing importance of urbanization, the university has established the Main Research Area “Urban Systems”. The interdisciplinary Main Research Area Urban Systems is one of five main research areas at the University of Duisburg-Essen; the Centre for Logistics and Traffic (ZLV) and the Centre for Water and Environmental Research (ZWU) are the main organizational bodies of the research area.
The University of Duisburg-Essen is located at the centre of the Greater Rhine-Ruhr Region, a metropolitan region with a population of over 11 million. Scientists and academics from all of the university’s faculties are currently working on multi-disciplinary projects as part of the Main Research Area Urban Systems. Why such broad interdisciplinary cooperation is necessary becomes clear when you consider that the object of our research is the city. Cities are the largest and most pervasive artificial constructs that the human race has created. The quality of life of a majority of people on our planet is dependent on the quality, functionality, and atmosphere of cities and metropolises. Bearing this in mind, we define urban systems as urban agglomerations with high (sometimes critical) population densities characterized by diverse and extraordinarily interdependent technological, economic, ecological, social and cultural demands and developments.
Our expressed goal is to develop holistic solutions, an ambition that the university accounts for through its international and interdisciplinary research and teaching. The diverse activities in urban research at the university have been subdivided into six competency fields: Health, Environment, Infrastructure, Logistics, Culture and Society.
In terms of subject matter, these competency fields are academic concentrations designed to meet the demands of applied urban research and which mirror the central challenges facing contemporary urban agglomerations and the challenges such areas will face in future. Primary indicators of developing challenges include: the increase in CO2 emissions in combination with the increasing rarity and expense of natural resources; increasing mobility needs as a result of the supply of goods and the transport of industrial goods; a general shift in forms of work; the potential for social conflict in areas where diverse cultural groups live together; the entrenchment of ‘cultures of poverty’ in urban areas; and health burdens caused by climate change and hazardous environmental conditions.
Over 70 scientists and academics from 10 faculties cooperate within the six competency fields under the umbrella of “Urban Systems” and form different interdisciplinary groups dependent on specific research questions. The specific know-how of each particular group is incorporated into projects based on a project’s central concerns and approaches. The university has also established a new Masters programme, which was launched at the beginning of the Winter Semester 2011/12. This programme addresses the complex subject matter of life in urban agglomerations and is one-of-a-kind in Germany.