HumboldtN - The Sustainability Initiative of the Universities in NRW

  Many people are standing around bar tables in a foyer and chatting Copyright: © WWU/Thomas Mohn  

The initiative sees itself as being a driving force for anchoring generational responsibility for sustainability and sustainable action in research, teaching, administration and infrastructure.

The universities of North Rhine-Westphalia are jointly assuming responsibility for the future issues that are at stake concerning the complex topic of sustainability. At the same time, they are also providing a broad, differentiated, and rapidly growing base for the necessary sustainability discussions that are taking place in the fields of politics, business and society.

As institutions, organizations and employers, the universities are committed to the responsible deployment of resources and employees. The educational and research mission goes hand in hand with the realization of common sustainability goals - this also applies at the highest level to this project, for which measurable indicators are to be set. By 2025, sustainability research will be integrated across sites as a joint program in basic and university applied research as well as in the curricula.

Digital Sustainability Map

A sustainability map records sustainability projects at the 16 university locations in North Rhine-Westphalia, thereby identifying research approaches and focal points and providing a basis for initiating research collaborations at the individual and institutional level. At the same time, the sustainability map enables the universities to identify synergies and collaborations in teaching as well as best-practice approaches and cooperate in a network that brings together those parties involved in sustainability.

Promoting Young Talent

Humboldtⁿ promotes the sensitization of young researchers to aspects of sustainability research via the Humboldtⁿ School for doctoral candidates and postdocs. This goal will also be strengthened by the establishment of a "Sustainability" working group in the Junge Kolleg of the North Rhine-Westphalian Academy of Sciences and Arts. What's more, we also support small events and enrich them with specialist expertise from the central association.


Joint Events


Summer School “Hydrogen Innovation Ecosystem”

As part of the Jülich Aachen Research Alliance (JARA), i.e. the research alliance between RWTH Aachen University and Forschungszentrum Jülich, the second interdisciplinary Summer School of Humboldtⁿ , the sustainability initiative of the 16 universities in North Rhine-Westphalia, took place from June 19 to 21, 2023. The aim of the Summer Schools is to sensitize young scientists to aspects of sustainability research.

The second Humboldtⁿ School focused on the “Hydrogen Innovation Ecosystem” from an interdisciplinary perspective. Different stages of the value chain of a hydrogen economy (production, storage, distribution, use) were considered in keynote lectures from science and practice, and the economy, science, and society were discussed in a goal-oriented manner. The focus was always on the connection to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations.

A guided tour of the Center for Mobile Propulsion CMP provided exciting insight into the development of fuel cells and hydrogen engines. In addition, the participants were able to experience various demonstrators of the Living Lab Energy Campus (LLEC) project up close during a bicycle tour of the Jülich campus. At the end of the Humboldtⁿ School, the hydrogen bus took the participants to the Rhenish mining district to experience the tu! Hambach! program in Morschenich-Alt. Well prepared by an interactive training session on science communication, the visitors followed a presentation about the main findings from the interdisciplinary perspective on the “Hydrogen Innovation Ecosystem.”

Twenty-one doctoral and post-doctoral students from a wide range of disciplines, universities, and non-university research institutions participated in the Summer School in Aachen.

Now that the Summer School has concluded, the results will be fleshed out and published. You can find the program of the summer school here.


Kick-off Conference "Areas of Tension in Sustainability"

The overarching theme of the kick-off conference in Münster was dedicated to the areas of tension or conflicting goals in sustainability research. The full-day event included several keynotes by renowned scientists on the general approach to and reflection on the concept of sustainability, specific practical examples and a panel discussion in which representatives from society, industry and politics had their say.


Summer School "Climate Change - Risks and Adaptations"

On September 19 and 20, 2022, the first interdisciplinary Summer School of the Sustainability Initiative took place at the University of Bonn. In addition to the member universities and strategic partners, the Humboldtⁿ School also involved the United Nations University (UNU-EDU) as well as stakeholders from the field, such as speakers from the IHK Nord Westfalen.

The global climate crisis and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) defined by the United Nations require decisive action. The identification and implementation of adaptations to the risks and consequences of climate change require an inter- and transdisciplinary exchange between science and practice. The Humboldtⁿ-School aims, among other things, to provide basic and application-oriented knowledge on food and energy security and sustainable land use. To this end, case studies are also presented and deepened in intensive and interdisciplinary project work. For this purpose, the active guiding skills necessary for far-reaching transformation processes are also taught: How can innovative socially acceptable ways of adapting to climate change be found? How can the public sector, the private sector, civil society, and science work together to develop viable solutions?