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World's First Climate-Focused United Nations University Hub at TU Hamburg

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"We have the feeling that the whole world is looking at Hamburg today – and especially at TU Hamburg," said Hamburg's Senator for Science, Katharina Fegebank, during the launch festivities in May 2024. The Hamburg University of Technology (TU Hamburg) is indeed poised to take on a global perspective with its newly established UNU Hub "Engineering to Face Climate Change." This hub marks the beginning of a crucial collaboration with the United Nations University, positioning TU Hamburg as a global center for research and innovation. Here, international expertise and technical innovation converge to address the urgent challenges of climate change through engineering solutions.

TU Hamburg: A Launchpad for Future Generations

The partnership between TU Hamburg and UNU aims at sustainable engineering solutions to face climate change. Through "Research & Innovation," "Education & Capacity Building," and "Outreach, Advocacy & Impact," the collaboration will develop innovative strategies to manage resources better, inform the public and policymakers, and train researchers worldwide. The UNU Hub will also act as a springboard for future scientists and innovators, offering joint doctoral and master's programs and additional training opportunities. Members of the Hub will contribute to policy and white paper development with the UN University, infusing their expertise into the political discourse on climate issues. “We are particularly eager to promote our Hub's ideas in the Global South to attract potential students to Hamburg for their studies and research,” says Nima Shokri.

Leading Researchers in the Fight Against Climate Change

The Hub's initiative was spearheaded by founding directors Prof. Irina Smirnova and Prof. Nima Shokri, who will lead its first research clusters. These clusters will focus on “Global Soil Health, Water and Climate” and "Circular Technologies for Bio-based Materials". The first cluster, "Global Soil Health, Water, and Climate," led by Prof. Shokri, will focus on essential elements that sustain life. Healthy soils and clean water are critical for resilient ecosystems and food security and are vital for achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). This cluster, including a Living Lab, will investigate sustainable practices to restore and maintain soil health, improve water management, and mitigate climate change impacts. The second cluster, "Circular Technologies for Bio-based Materials", led by Prof. Irina Smirnova, will explore innovative technologies for materials derived from biomass, emphasizing both production and circularity. This work will be central to the corresponding Campus Lab “Circular Economy.”

Engineering to Face Climate Change: Thinking Beyond Technology

At the UNU Hub launch, Andreas Timm-Giel, President of TU Hamburg, highlighted the importance of considering social and political contexts when developing technological solutions. Only by combining technical expertise sustainable impacts can be achieved. Integrating research, teaching, and knowledge transfer is crucial to combat the severe effects of climate change and engage politicians in forward-looking decision-making. "Climate change does not stop at borders. We therefore need solutions that go beyond borders", underlined Timm-Giel.

Leading scientists from UNU will be invited to the Hub to collaborate on specific topics within student projects, bachelor’s and master’s theses, and mutual research projects. “It truly opens a new dimension to the internationalization of TU Hamburg, which we are particularly proud of,” stated I. Smirnova. The Hub also aims to transfer its technological solutions to industry and society, fostering new start-ups und direct collaborations with industrial partners.