• Prof. Dr. Stefanie Molthagen-Schnöring, Brain City Berlin

    "We want innovations that are created in Berlin to be implemented here"

The project "Zukunft findet Stadt - Hochschulnetzwerk für ein resilientes Berlin"  ("Future Happens in the City - University Network for a Resilient Berlin") is something that is so far unique for Berlin: Five Berlin universities of applied sciences - the HTW Berlin University of Applied Sciences (HTW Berlin), the Berliner Hochschule für Technik (BHT), the Berlin School of Economics and Law (HWR Berlin) and the two SAGE universities, the Protestant University of Applied Sciences Berlin (EHB) and the Catholic University of Applied Sciences Berlin (KHSB) - are pooling their expertise and developing and testing transfer formats in cooperation with companies, institutions and the citizens of the city with the goal of creating, as the name of the project suggests, a university network for a resilient Berlin.

The project is being funded over a period of five years with a total of eight million euros as part of the Innovative Hochschule (Innovative University) initiative launched by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). Project leader Prof. Dr. Stefanie Molthagen-Schnöring tells us more about "Zukunft findet Stadt" and the possibilities for cooperation in the Brain City interview. The Brain City Ambassador is Vice President for Research, Transfer and Science Communication at HTW Berlin.

Professor Dr. Molthagen-Schnöring, what do the five Berlin universities involved in "Zukunft findet Stadt" want to achieve with the project?

The starting point of our joint application for the funding initiative "Innovative Hochschule" was that we realized that many great research projects are already underway at the five participating Berlin universities of applied sciences. It was important to us to bundle the different topics and research competences, to make them more visible and to use them more for the city of Berlin.

This bundling takes place along two subject areas: Health and climate. How were these selected?

Both are key topics that are of great concern to Berlin. They are also thematic areas in which the research competences of the universities involved in “Zukunft findet Stadt” complement each other perfectly. HTW Berlin and BHT are more technically oriented, EHB and KHSB add approaches from the social and health sectors, and HWR Berlin brings in expertise from economics and administrative sciences as well as selected technical specialisations. Bringing these different perspectives together within the framework of “Zukunft findet Stadt” – together with Berlin’s urban society, the business community and civil society – is an exciting experiment for us.

Are already existing projects included in "Zukunft findet Stadt"?

The funding period for the project only started at the beginning of 2023. We now have five years and the goal of developing many new projects within these five years. There are already a few anchor projects: through cooperations that already existed before, and also because we have partners on board who specify a topic or a direction in terms of content. One example that I like to mention is the nursing flat-sharing community that we have planned as a project together with the Evangelisches Johannesstift Pflegen und Wohnen. The aim here is to find out, through the temporary cohabitation of students, teachers and people in need of care, what needs people in need of care really have. We also want to build on existing experiences in other formats. We are planning a transfer festival for 2024, at which we then want to present concrete project results to the public. For this, we will certainly also draw on projects that are already underway. For example, the interdisciplinary research projects of the IFAF Institut für angewandte Forschung (Institute for Applied Research, German only). With the BHT Berlin, the HTW Berlin and the HWR Berlin, three of the universities involved in "Zukunft findet Stadt" are participating in the IFAF.

How do you find partners for the project?

Of course, all participating universities already have cooperations and cooperation partners. In terms of content, we are very open beyond our two focal points. There are many topics we can dock onto and in future we want to address small and medium-sized enterprises in particular, which are often unsure where they could start. Often, such cooperations lead to smaller projects at first. For example, it can lead to final theses, student projects or a doctorate. However, such small-scale collaborations can certainly develop into larger research projects.

So the projects are initiated by the universities?

Projects are being launched, people are being networked and the first prototypes are to be created. That is why we have also integrated formats into "Zukunft findet Stadt" such as hackademies or labs. We want to open our labs and make them usable for actors from civil society or for companies that have concrete questions and want to work with the students on site. Incidentally, such questions can also be embedded in existing courses. We also want to explore points of contact between science and business with a roadshow through Berlin companies. After all, as Berlin's universities of applied sciences, we are there for the city. And we want innovations that are created in Berlin to be implemented here - and to stay here.

You already mentioned the planned roadshow. What other measures do you intend to use to gain additional partners for "Zukunft findet Stadt"?

We deliberately chose existing partnerships with institutions such as the Johannisstift Diakonie, the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin and the Impact Hub Berlin in order to increase our visibility in urban society and thus make it clear to the outside world that universities are an important location factor for Berlin. We have planned other ways to build partnerships with companies: On the one hand, we draw the attention of other companies to the project through multipliers such as Berlin Partner for Business and Technology, the Berlin-Brandenburg business associations and the Berlin Chamber of Industry and Commerce (IHK Berlin). A matching platform will also initiate cooperation projects between science and business. The needs of the companies and the expertise of the universities are to be brought together in a targeted manner via the platform. We will involve the urban society in a very low-threshold manner using formats such as the "KiezTalks" in order to consider together with our researchers what can be done for the respective neighbourhood or district.

The project defines three fields of action: "Communicate", "Network & Advise" and "Apply". Can you briefly explain them?

The principle basically follows a cycle. Through various communication formats such as "KiezTalks" or the already mentioned transfer festival, we would like to make the project "Zukunft findet Stadt" visible to the outside. One example of networking formats is the matching platform. But it can also be formats such as the "Researchers and Entrepreneurs in Residence" programme, which we developed a few years ago at HTW Berlin as an internal format for researchers. We now want to expand this and also involve people from the field. Young professionals from companies could then, for example, spend a few days in an environment far removed from everyday life, together with scientists while brainstorming which projects could be launched by their companies in cooperation with the universities. Finally, the "Apply" field is about working on concrete issues, for example in hackathons. This also includes student projects that focus on specific issues.

Keyword Third Mission: Why is the transfer of knowledge from the university so important today?

We don't work in a vacuum. Research and science should benefit society: Through the education of young people, who are prepared in the best possible way to find their place in professional life later on. But also by making knowledge, which is also developed in cooperation with actors from the economy, with other non-university research institutions, etc., available to society again. Take climate change: science has now developed many great approaches that can help to counter climate change. We will not be able to stop it, but we can try to meet this challenge together as a society. It may sound a bit idealistic, but I would say that is a very obvious reason for knowledge transfer. The other is to keep a clear eye on the fact that scientific research results can also be used in practice and become relevant.

Why is Berlin a good environment for the project "Zukunft findet Stadt"?

Berlin has a great deal of potential. There is an incredible amount of knowledge here and lots of young people with creative ideas. Berlin is predestined to bring both together. I have already received a number of requests from students who want to participate in "Zukunft findet Stadt" and do something that benefits their immediate environment. I believe that such projects create a very strong dynamic at the universities. And I hope that carries over to the city. (vdo)

Project “Zukunft findet Stadt” (German only)






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