s:ne – System Innovation for Sustainable Development

The contributions of the Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences (h_da) to future-oriented urban and regional development are the focus of the transfer project “System Innovation for Sustainable Development. Transfer as a learning process in the region” (s:ne). The aim is to link the creative and innovative potential of the region to support sustainable development and to establish a system with the inherent capability to learn (self-learning system). To this end, the project works closely with regional and urban institutions and actors from society, research, politics and business in the Darmstadt area.

Project approach

The project aims to establish processes that lead to a sustainable development by connecting regional actors within a network so that societal challenges can be dealt with in a concrete manner. That way, the current transfer strategy of h_da will be adopted. In serveral phases, the transfer activities of the university are to be incorporated into a “self-learning system”. The transfer is not limited to science developing solutions and then making them available to practice. Rather, s:ne seeks ways to bring together actors with different experiences, perspectives and interests and together with them formulate new research questions on the basis of a common understanding of the problem. The aim is to develop “creative knowledge” that transcends previous system boundaries. Different knowledge bases are to be combined in such a way that processes of change arise that contribute to a sustainable development in the region.
The central element is the establishment of an innovation and transformation platform (ITP), which aims to facilitate cooperation with political, social and economic actors and also with research institutions in the region and aligning them thematically to the challenges of “sustainable development”. This structure will be tested with the help of three implementation projects:

  • Future-oriented urban development using the Mollerstadt district in Darmstadt as an example
  • Digitisation with the aim to support processes towards sustainable urban development
  • Sustainable consumption and production methods using the value chains of leather products as an example.

ISOE and its project partner Öko-Institut, will take over the task to support the establishment of the ITP and the associated process and during several phases to incorporate the transfer activities into a “self-learning system”. The focus is on mutual exchange and reflection among the participants. Against the background of experiences with the design of transdisciplinary processes, impulses are to be given to the participants. At the beginning, the focus will be on dealing with complex expectations and developing a common vision for transfer processes. ,As the process continues, experiences and learning steps regarding the development of transfer qualities will be reflected upon.


Under the leadership of Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences, the consortium was selected for a five-year funding phase by the BMBF’s “Innovative University” funding initiative. This makes it one of 19 individual projects and 10 collaborative projects throughout Germany, which receive annual support of up to two million euros from the Federal-State programme. Aside from research and teaching, the funding initiative focuses on the third mission “Transfer and Innovation” and is aimed in particular at small and medium-sized universities and universities of applied sciences. The project duration of five years allows Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences to pursue its aim for teaching and research in the field of sustainable development to closely cooperate with regional actors from science and economy. Regular discursive formats organized in cooperation with the Schader Foundation will bring together the relevant actors in the region as well as other universities, non-university research and civil society.

Cooperation partners

  • Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences
  • Schader Foundation
  • Institute for Housing and Environment (IWU)
  • Öko-Institut e.V.
  • e-hoch-3
  • Software AG


“Innovative University” funding initiative of the BMBF


Hoffmann, Sabine/Lisa Deutsch/Benjamin Hofmann/Hanna Salomon/Christian Pohl/Alexandra Lux/Emilia Nagy/Silke Kleihauer/Sebastian Rogga/Jana Zscheischler (2023): Towards a theory of change to institutionalise integration experts and expertise. Blog Integration and Implementation Insights


2018/08 – 2022/12