Citizens and Innovations

It is not enough to continuously develop new technologies to put the paradigm of sustainable development into action – It is necessary to renew consumption styles and economic processes from the ground up. Thus we have to fundamentally reconsider our way of gaining knowledge, making inventions and bringing innovations to marketability. Therefore it is necessary to submit the process and infrastructure of research and the educational concepts themselves to a transformation process, as the WBGU*demanded from the scientific world in the survey “World in Transition - A Social Contract for Sustainability”.

Inter- and transdisciplinary research is required which promotes systematic, long-term and context-based thinking and acting and which features a much closer cooperation among humanities, social, natural and technical sciences. At the same time we need “undisciplined” research – a mode of research in which the civil society purposefully introduces its specific knowledge, its creativity and its inventiveness at eye level.

Fraunhofer UMSICHT rises to this challenge by developing and testing new transdisciplinary and participative formats of research.

* WBGU = German Advisory Council on Global Change

Our activities in the area of new formats of research


DEZENTRALE Dortmund – Community laboratory for questions of the present and the future

The DEZENTRALE is a place for collaborative projects that address the pressing questions of the present and the future. Here, engaged citizens, amateurs and experts, nerds and craftsmen, students, designers, engineers, humanists and scientists have the possibility to jointly develop ideas and to put them into practice. Reducing the consumption of resources and emissions, social aspects and the focus on the urban space form the framework for diversified project approaches with practical relevance.



Headed by the Institute for Ecological Economy Research (IÖW) the transdisciplinary joint project CoWerk, funded by the Federal Ministry for Education and Research BMBF, examines the collaborative economy between low-tech and high-tech – sharing, DIY, makerspaces and open workshops. In trends like self-constructed cargo bikes, sewing workshops, repair-cafés and FabLabs, a new economic model emerges – decentralized, horizontally organized and bearing large potentials for a more sustainable mode of production and consumption.

Digital Manufactory Dortmund (DMDo)

The concept of the Digital Manufactory Dortmund incorporates the current trends of decentralized, digital workshops (FabLabs, TechShops) and the growing interest of the young generation in do-it-yourself and the maker culture to connect it with the competences and interest of the older generation (50+). The result is a digital high-tech manufactory which points the way to a demand-driven, individualized and regional production and bears the potential for sustainability innovations and a new start-up culture. Thus, a space for the cooperation between young creatives and senior people with technical skills and experience in crafts is created, which does not yet exist in this form.

Innovative Citizen. 2014

With the maker movement the frequently invoked “Internet of things” reaches the level of the individual citizen. Not in their function as consumers, who purchase shoes, clothes and books through diverse webshops, but rather in the new and advanced role of scientists and producers. The maker culture manifests itself in numerous activities which newly define and balance technology, creativity, entrepreneurship and social participation. FabLabs, repair-cafés, urban farming and self-logging are just a few examples. The question, whether and how this movement can act as an impulse for creative industries and small trade on the one hand and for sustainability innovations on the other hand, is very interesting.