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The Cluster is neither committed to a specific scientific sustainability approach nor is its aim to cover all and everything. It is geared to a profil frame which, on the one hand, faces broadly considerations regarding the higher topics around a „sustainable development“ and, on the other, the expectations of the trinational region in terms of a support of a sustainable development in the Upper Rhine region according to the mentioned core areas.

To begin with, “sustainable“ belongs to the everyday speech and stands for something like “long lasting“  or „with a noticable effect“. In the social discourse the idea of a sustainable development as a maxim has been established since the publication of the Brundtland Report in 1987. It is centered on the question how human societies should develop, against the background of global scarce resources (as e.g. water or human capital) and global and local fragile systems, so that human beings, today and in the future, can live a humane life. Generally, sustainability is an open concept, as the future is open, too and as future generations will take their own decisions. Despite the diversity of often controverse suggestions on what exactly sustainability stands for, it is at least possible to frame the concept of sustainablity and a sustainable development:

(1) It is about human-nature relationships, as societal conformation depends on resources and the states of the systems and should consider risks which come along with these states. Well-known keywords are „isolation of both economic activities and quality of life from a consumption of resources“ (“green economy“), “sustainable growth“ (according to the EU Horizon 2020 strategy „smart, inclusive and sustainable growth“), resilience and vulnerability of systems, co-evolution of humans and nature.

(2) Substantial principles for societal conformation should be an intra- as well as an intergenerational equity. Such principles include, on the one hand, questions on life quality and, on the other, questions on distribution within and between generations. Keywords as dematerialization of consumption, social cohesion (contemporary and future generations) or „what do we owe future generations“ (e.g. referring to state indebtedness) do reflect this.

(3) It concerns the steering or transformation of societies in terms of adaptations with changing frame and environmental conditions. Well-known keywords are governance of change, multilevel-governance in order to cope with complexitiy, decisions taken under uncertain circumstances, conductive frame conditions for innovation etc.The Cluster builds on its partners‘ existing research competencies, however aims for new approaches and a scientific innovation that comes along with interdisciplinary and cross-border cooperation:

  • Comprehensive questions: what is "sustainable growth"? How can a movement towards a "sustainable growth" direction be achieved?

  • Cooperation of all four major academic cultures (nature and technique, economic and social sciences)

  • The cluster supports and institutionalizes cross-border cooperations (at least between two countries) between researchers.

  • The Trinational Metropolitan Region itself is a prominent object of investigation, without being the only research object - as particularly in the case of comparative research.

  • The research cluster activates the whole knowledge-value chain. It comprises the entire spectrum of knowledge production activities from basic research to knowledge transfer in both economy and society.