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Institute for Applied Sustainability now affiliated institute of KU and THI

Promoting research and teaching for sustainable development in region 10 and inspiring citizens to develop sustainable ways of life – this is the objective set by the Ingolstadt-based Institute for Applied Sustainability (inas), the Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt (KU) and Technische Hochschule Ingolstadt (THI) in the context of a new collaboration which will be pooling the skills and know-how of the participating institutions. At a festive kick-off event on Monday, the KU and THI have officially recognized inas as affiliated institute. An affiliated institute is completely independent when it comes to its legal and organizational structure, but cooperates closely with the academic institutions with which it is associated.

inas founder Professor Reinhard Büchl (middle) receiving two certificates from KU President Prof. Dr. Gabriele Gien and THI President Prof. Dr. Walter Schober. These certificates officially make inas an affiliated institute of both universities. (Photos: Schulte Strathaus)

“Together, we would like to further increase the practical relevance of the sustainability issue in region 10. We see our collaboration as a powerful tool in this respect”, emphasized KU President Prof. Dr. Gabriele Gien. She added that this topic area connected both universities, for example through the joint collaborative project “Mensch in Bewegung”. Gien emphasized that the KU was the first university in Germany to be awarded the “EMAS plus” certificate for its holistic approach in sustainability management and that the University also consciously included the topic of sustainability in numerous degree programs and research projects. THI President Prof. Dr. Walter Schober added that the THI was planning on establishing a new “Faculty of Sustainable Infrastructure” on the institution’s second campus which is currently being developed in Neuburg in order to be able to offer the study fields of construction, energy and environment. “Sustainability is not only a commitment we pledge to future generations but can also strengthen technological competitiveness of companies”, says Schober. The head and founder of inas, Professor Reinhard Büchl, said it was a “defining feature” that both the KU and the THI offered a broad range of subjects reaching from the humanities and ethical questions to high-tech – precisely in a region in which sustainability could be implemented in an exemplary manner by all industry branches from agriculture to large-scale industry.

For over 45 years, Büchl was an entrepreneur in the waste management industry before he founded the Institute for Applied Sustainability in 2017. “Although this might sound emotional: My mission is to save the planet for my grandchildren. My vision is to turn our region 10 into a flagship region for sustainability”, said Büchl at the kick-off event hosted at the Ingolstadt School of Management. He emphasized that it was important to convey the right message now in order to keep up with the transformation towards more sustainability. “Just like ‘digital natives’ use and exploit modern media, we need ‘sustainable natives’ who have learned to incorporate questions of sustainability into their everyday lives from a very early age”, requests Büchl. It cannot be denied that, for a transformation towards increased sustainability to happen, we need to fundamentally question our consumption and production habit. At the same time, however, it was also crucial to send the clear message that a sustainable way of life was no sacrifice but simply a change: “Use of plastic bags in Germany has significantly decreased from seven million to two million within a few years. And nobody perceived this as a loss.” He went on to say that we needed to establish a comprehensive network of skills – an objective that was already pursued by the new collaboration between inas, KU and THI. Furthermore, citizens, politicians and the economy had to join forces in order to tackle the topic of sustainability. “Let’s image science predicts that our planet will be struck by an asteroid in 25 years. What effort would humanity make to avert this catastrophe? Now, we are dealing with a ‘climate asteroid’ which is approaching the earth fast and will eradicate all human life. This asteroid is man-made and we have the power to change track”, warned Büchl.

Ingolstadt mayor Dr. Christian Lösel used his speech on the implementation of sustainability “with all our heart and mind” to plead for taking the people’s fears, e.g. about losing their job, serious. Lösel walked attendees through the steps of the process for establishing a sustainability strategy for the city of Ingolstadt which was initiated this year as one of the largest current projects. In the panel discussion concluding the event, he emphasized that sustainability was a task that addressed society as a whole and which needed to take into account the three dimensions of ecology, economy and social issues.

The representative of the IHK Munich and Upper Bavaria, Elke Christian, reported that while companies still needed to catch up a lot in the area of sustainability, there were already some flagship companies among SMEs and industry who led by example.

Prof. Dr. André Habisch (KU) pointed out that often, the decisive course was also set beyond our direct scope of influence and rather in a global context, for example when the Brazilian government decided to put economic interests above the protection of rain forests. Making concessions towards more sustainability partly also meant accepting higher prices. Prof. Dr. Georg Barfuß (THI) also advocated open and honest discussions about the fact that adequate conditions in global supply chains were inevitably connected to higher costs. A more hands-on approach was suggested by the student Denise Rink, who recently founded the association “Out Future” together with her fellow THI students: “We need less taking and more doing. We have a chance to succeed if there are enough people out there who at least try to change their lives towards more sustainability.”