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Research Programme Main Phase: Energy- and Climate Efficient Structures in Urban Growth Centres

With its funding programme “Research for the Sustainable Development of Megacities of Tomorrow” the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is focussing on “energy- and climate-efficient structures in urban growth centres”. The programme is a globally focussed component of the Federal Government’s High-Tech-Strategy in the action field on “Climate and Energy”. Moreover, it is a part of the framework programme “Research for Sustainable Development” of the BMBF.
Thereby urban agglomerations on the threshold to a megacity are seen as “research labs”, where researchers exemplary try to manage urban growth in the sense of sustainability. In networks of local partners from academia, economy, politics and the civil society, interdisciplinary research teams are working on solutions for the problems megacities are faced with. 
The main focus of the funding programme is to develop technological, social and economic approaches for energy efficient design in cities. Key topics are “Mobility and Transport”, “Building and Housing”, “Waste- and Environmental Management”, “Nutrition and Urban Agriculture”, “Urban Planning and Governance” as well as “Energy Supply and Consumption”.
An outstanding criterion of this approach is the integration in the sustainable development concept. This approach differs from other approaches that are only concentrating on singular problems by its activity- and demand-oriented focus. Ecological, economic and social facets of the development of energy- and climate efficient structures in urban growth centres should be considered in a comprehensive and long-run concept. They should be investigated in an interdisciplinary as well as transdisciplinary manner.

Problem definition 

Efficient energy supply and economical energy consumption are set to become central questions of the 21st century. Mankind`s energy consumption rises continuously and presents enormous challenges for climate protection and energy supply. 
Urban agglomerations and megacities in developing and newly industrialising countries are important arenas for energy consumption. Although cities cover only 2% of the earth's surface, they are responsible for three-quarter of global energy consumption as well as approximately 85% of the global greenhouse gas emissions. 
The underlying trend to urbanisation and to the further expansion of megacities is unbroken. Against this background, future megacities offer strategic approaches for efficient energy use and climate change mitigation.
One the one hand, the agglomeration of people, material flows and residential districts in megacities allows to reduce the consumption of resources and energy, because more people can be supplied using the same amount of transport, energy and space by the use of modern planning and service concepts. Material cycles can be partly closed.
On the other hand, the complexity of infrastructures and urban industries enables an accelerated dissemination of innovations.
Therefore, in particular future megacities face fundamental decisions on the direction to take. They may still have a choice between different pathways of development. Decisions of planning and investment of today will determine the energy efficiency, the economic productivity, the social quality of life and the ecological capacity of the expanding megacities for many years. 

Besides climate change mitigation, issues of adaptation to climate change are of fundamental importance for emerging megacities. 
Weather extremes like floods, storm floods, droughts and heat waves together with water scarcity are already today serious problems for cities especially in developing and newly industrialising countries. For the future they have to intensify their efforts to adapt to climate change, in order to minimise the damage and control the risks of climate change.

Against this background, the BMBF-funding programme "Research for Sustainable Development of Megacities of Tomorrow" focuses in the main phase on "Energy- and Climate-Efficient Structures in Urban Growth Centres".

Objectives of the programme 

In the context of Germany’s overall approach to climate issues and efficient mitigation strategies in the international and the national arenas, it is the goal of the Future Megacities programme to create good or even best practice examples for sustainable urban development. 
Therefore the bilateral teams have to 

  • research, plan, develop and realise in an exemplary way technical and non-technical innovations for the establishment of energy- and climate-efficient structures
  • enable the city, along with its decision makers and inhabitants, to bring about increased performance and efficiency gains in energy production, distribution and use
  • demonstrate that the resource consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by the energy using sectors can be reduced in a sustainable way in the future.

Focus of the programme 

The methodical approach of the pre-liminary phase remains valid:

  • the research concepts are to be developed in close cooperation with decision makers and stakeholders in the particular urban growth centres and elaborated in the context of joint projects based on partnership and the division of work.
  • relevant groups of interest from politics, economics and society are to be involved to adjust the questions treated to real needs.
  • the bundling of integrative, interdisciplinary competencies and capacities within a controllable frame as well as the creation of competence networks to strengthen the competitiveness of the German research has to be incorporated into the setup of the projects.
  • cooperation with German enterprises as well as with local companies is to be aimed at, in order to promote the employment, development and diffusion of German technologies, methods and services.

Expected results 

Outcome of the research will be strategies and pilot projects that show new ways for the introduction of energy- and climate-efficient structures in urban growth centres through:

  • technical innovations in urban infrastructure adapted to local conditions and accepted by the citizens
  • new ways in political decision processes, new forms of political decision making and governance
  • new management instruments in urban decision making
  • tools to evaluate the effectiveness of urban planning measures
  • capacity building and vocational training
  • new partnerships combating climate change.


Based on the results of the preliminary phase (7/2005 – 3/2008) and under consideration of the relevant funding frame, ten bilateral projects have been working on their specific research topics since April 2008.