REVIERa – Shaping Structural Change in the Rhenish Mining Area


RWTH supports structural change in the Rhenish mining area with its REVIERa transformation platform.



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The decision to phase out coal will result in a far-reaching structural change in the Rhenish mining area, which is not only relevant to the region itself, its conurbations, and the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. Why? Because the Rhenish mining district has the chance to become the first climate-neutral region in Europe. Because structural change offers numerous opportunities for an exemplary and highly promising new start for the model region: starting with a CO2-neutral energy supply, largel closed cycles of resources, and new attractive locations for people to live and work in.

The model region offers great potential, not least as many insights gained in this process can be transferred to other regions. With REVIERa, an interdisciplinary, cross-faculty transformation platform which is constantly evolving in an open-ended process, RWTH has established a way of actively accompanying the change process and strengthen the University's networking activities in the region.

As one of the leading universities of technology, RWTH sees its responsibility to contribute to the development of transformation offerings and to provide long-term perspectives and opportunities to drive structural change in the coming years. This goal is to be achieved in close collaboration with partners in the Rhenish mining area.

Promoting Dialogue and Exchange between Academia and Practitioners

The phase-out of coal is expected to result in massive social, spatial and technological changes that will also have an impact on existing value systems. With the help of newly developed methodological approaches, REVIERa seeks to define specific transformation tasks aligned with global sustainability goals, develop long-term perspectives, and support the transformation processes that have already been initiated.

REVIERa strives to foster dialogue and exchange between academia and practice and thus to support the transformation of the Rhenish mining area. To this end, researchers at RWTH are engaging in interdisciplinary exchange collaborations, both within the University with stakeholders from the mining district.

This is a deliberately open process with the aim of creating a new culture of knowledge, innovation and communication. Its implementation corresponds to the objectives of the University’s institutional strategy as an integrated, interdisciplinary university of technology.

The Beginnings of the Project: A Cross-Faculty Initiative

The REVIERa transformation platform was initiated in mid-2019 within a cross-faculty project by a group of RWTH researchers. In July and November 2019, following the Federal Government’s decision to phase out lignite, around 60 RWTH researchers joined forces to host two workshops concerned with developing project ideas to advance the structural change process in the Rhenish lignite mining region.

At a kick-off workshop on February 10, 2020, the REVIERa team opened the dialogue with various stakeholders from the Rhenish mining area. Fields of action for the far-reaching regional transformation were identified and goals for sustainable development discussed.

Stakeholders from four areas participated in the discussions:

  • Representatives from the federal and state governments and from municipalities, counties, and administrative districts
  • Representatives from business and industry, including corporations as well as small and medium-sized companies, start-ups, development companies, and the real estate industry
  • Representatives from civil society with its associations, initiatives, youth associations, students
  • Universities in the Rhenish mining area, chambers of commerce, trade unions, churches, foundations

During the workshop, the following objectives were identified:

RWTH is expected to develop and provide solutions to future challenges in the areas of energy, resources, mobility, ecology and agriculture. These solutions are to be widely promoted and a plan for implementation is to be jointly developed with the various stakeholder groups.

Development of the Model Region – What Direction to Take?

Connecting local and regional requirements with global challenges requires deliberation and orientation, especially concerning the possible development of the model region.

Taking into account both the consensus and divergence concerning objectives to be accomplished in the Rhenish mining area, possible solutions were identified. To this end, RWTH developed a so-called transformation compass together with practitioners. The compass serves as a tool for communication between individual groups with regard to underlying values and desired goals.


The Transformation Compass and its Dimensions

Achieve Environmental Sustainability and Climate Neutrality

The global Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs for short, are to be the guiding principles for the social, technological and spatial development of the mining area as a model region. The climate and resource crisis has been decisive in the decision to phase out coal and transform the mining region. It serves as a driver of sustainable and robust solutions for an increasingly rapidly changing and crisis-prone world.

Promote Development

Change cannot be fully planned in advance. In the Rhenish lignite mining region, change has to be shaped over a long period of time. It is therefore important that projects and activities provide creative input, trigger sustainable developments, and keep options open for other possible solutions.

Enhance Quality of Life

The quality of life of the people in the Rhenish mining area serves as the key benchmark of the transformation process. Quality of life must be maintained or improved, in particular where deficits are perceived or when new needs arise. What people understand by quality of life, or the "good life", should be part of the discussion and contribute to guiding the change process.

New Forms of Value Creation

Value creation is the basis of life for the people living in the Rhenish mining area, which has the potential to be a productive region with added value for the neighboring conurbations as well. This productivity must now be refocused on relevant future challenges and aligned with the sustainable use of resources.

Ensuring Inclusion and Participation

The change processes in the Rhenish mining area and the debate surrounding them should be characterized by openness and transparency, a dialogue among equals, and opportunities for everyone to participate. Addressing and involving all groups of the population is essential for the success of the change process.


Shaping Structural Change: Projects, Ideas and Initiatives

  Workshop logo  

In October 2020, 145 participants took part in a digital project workshop organized and hosted by REVIERa. The key idea was to present the state of ongoing projects as well as to initiate collaborations, identify innovative opportunities for transformation, and provide a common denominator for the various stakeholders involved.

In the run-up to the workshop, a large number of project ideas by RWTH researchers had been collected.

A wide range of faculties, research institutes, facilities, and disciplines contributed to the 74 projects and initiatives for shaping structural change in the Rhenish mining area.

The projects and initiatives can be assigned to the following areas of innovation:


REVIERa – Interdisciplinary Core Team

  1. Professor Dr. Agnes Förster
    Chair of Planning Theory and Urban Development at the Faculty of Architecture
  2. Professor Dr. Stefan Böschen
    Chair of Technology and Society at the Faculty of Arts and Humanities
  3. Professor Dr. Peter Letmathe
    Chair of Management Accounting, Dean of the School of Business and Economics.
  • Energy
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Information
  • Mobility
  • Health
  • Production
  • Materials and Cycles
  • Productive Landscape

In addition, they seek to contribute to transforming the Rhenish mining area in four areas:

  • Infrastructure
  • Participation
  • Innovation and Market
  • Values and Knowledge

For detailed information on the projects and ideas of the REVIERa project, please refer to the Project Booklet (de) and the Digital Project Map which highlight the open and transparent appraoch of the project.

Play Video
Erklär's mir, RWTH!: Professorin Agnes Förster über REVIERa
Play Video
Erklär's mir, RWTH: Professor Peter Letmathe über Transformation
Play Video
Erklär's mir, RWTH!: Professor Stefan Böschen über (Struktur-)wandel

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