We are already using more resources than the Earth can provide. Our use of resources must become more sustainable. For this reason, the German Federal Ministry is funding research into a more efficient use of resources.
How will German citizens be able to maintain their high standards of living in the future? And how can German businesses remain competitive in the face of globalised goods and finance flows? The search for answers to these questions is not the reserve of individual fields of research. To establish an economy that is internationally competitive, while remaining environmentally friendly, it is important to consider land and resource usage, as well as the protection of our groundwater and the German Energy Transition. The establishment of a “Green Economy” depends on the cooperation of scientists from a wide range of fields. Thier cooperation is necessary if research and developments made in laboratories are to result in new products and services. Sustainable development will secure the existensial basis of future generations and will aso provide German businesses with a competitive advantage. Research into sustainable development will benefit people in Germany, Europe and the world over.
If we want to continue to have access to increasingly scarce and expensive raw materials, we need new approaches to research and new technological developments. Key to these developments is that we use resources more efficiently, because increased growth does not have to mean an increased use of resources that affects the environment. As part of the German Federal Ministry's “Research and Development Programme”, the “Economically Strategic Resources for Germany as a High-Tech Location” programme is exploring new resource extraction and processing technologies, as well as possible applications, to safeguard Germany's position as a successful economy. The German Federal Government is also supporting the efficient use of resources with its “Resource Strategy” and the “German Resource Efficiency Programme”. To this end, the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research's resource research is pursuing the following strategic approaches: increasing raw material productivity, securing and expanding the raw materials basis, for example by substituting mineral oil, supporting small and medium sized enterprises, accelerating implementation, and international cooperation.
Water is the basis of all life. For this reason, the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research is funding the development of new approaches and technologies, to ensure the supply of clean water and the cleaning of waste water. Climate change, population growth and drought are causing water shortages in a number of regions. The progressing exodus from rural regions and rising urban populations mean that drinking water supply and sewage systems must adapt. Additionally, a large number of substances, the by-products of human consumption – such as medicine and cosmetics – are finding their way into various bodies of water.
The funding priority “Sustainable Water Management” is supporting research projects, in Germany and abroad, to develop strategies for a sustainable use of the resource water. Experts from a wide range of fields are working together, to make sure that all aspects of water research are considered. Cooperation between researchers and those who eventually apply the results to practice is essential, if research results are to help the people who need them.
Due to the complex interactions between various fields, sustainable land management is reliant on interdisciplinary and trans-disciplinary research approaches. In Germany, the focus is on land usage and conflicts of interest that are linked to the use of land. Demographic and structural changes in the economy and society will also have an impact on changing, and intensified usage of land in the long term. New approaches to sustainability research will need to be devised to address regional value chains, integrated land management, energy and material flows, changing framework conditions, and future development trends. The relationships between cities and rural regions and the interaction between land management, regional economies, power generation, climate mitigation and adaptation and biodiversity protection are all important factors. Research projects need to be planned and realised jointly by science, business, society and administration from the beginning, otherwise there is little chance that any real contribution to sustainable development can be made. Examples for such funding measures are “Transdisciplinary Innovation Groups for Sustainable Land Management” and “Kommunen Innovativ”.