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A Young Academy for Sustainability Research

The Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies makes its first call for scholarships

Freiburg, Feb 23, 2021

Over the next three years, the Eva Mayr-Stihl Foundation will provide funding totaling nearly one million euros to establish a Young Academy for Sustainability Research at the Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies (FRIAS). The first call for applications for the program is underway. The program itself is scheduled to start in the 2021/22 winter semester. Nicolas Scherger talked to FRIAS Director Bernd Kortmann about the concept.

The Faculty of Environment and Natural Resources is a key player in the University profile field “Environment and Sustainability,” thereby making it an important partner for the Young Academy. Photo: Sandra Meyndt

Professor Kortmann, what is the objective of the Young Academy for Sustainability Research?

Bernd Kortmann: The main objective is not only to further strengthen sustainability research in Freiburg and to make it even more visible nationally and internationally, but it is also intended to help shape its content. For this reason, there is close cooperation with the Faculty of Environment and Natural Resources, which in turn is an important component of the University profile field "Environment and Sustainability". Many more disciplines are involved here ranging from the humanities and social sciences to technology and engineering. This diversity should also be reflected in the Academy.

For whom is the program best suited?

Our target group is postdocs. Half of them should come from Freiburg; the other half will be recruited nationally and internationally. We want to give all of them the chance to advance their topics in sustainability research for three years each. In the first stage of the program, beginning in October 2021, we want to have about a dozen academy members. More will then be added in the coming years, provided that future funding for the program is secured.

Bernd Kortmann views the Young Academy for Sustainability Research as an ideal complement to the activities at the Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies. Photo: Roger Koeppe

Initially, two scholarships for anchor positions have been announced for which applicants can apply until the end of February 2021. Can you tell us what they’re all about?

This is a special feature that we have come up with. In young academies, as they are otherwise found in Germany, the members usually meet three or four times a year for one or two weeks. The challenge for the Freiburg Young Academy, however, is to set thematic priorities and organize continuous work. Therefore, we are starting the recruitment process with two anchor positions that are advertised internationally: Fellowships with a full contract for two years, each representing one of the five thematic areas that the profile field “Environment and Sustainability" has chosen for the next years. They include “Environmental Risks,” “Adaptation, Vulnerability and Resilience,” “Innovation for Sustainability,” “Systemic Transitions to Sustainability” and “Power, Responsibility, and Sustainability.” By focusing on these areas, we are setting the direction for the first three-year period of the Academy. Once we have made the selection in April 2021, we will advertise the remaining Academy memberships.

What elements are planned for the Young Academy?

Young Academies are largely self-organizing, and it depends on what mutual interests the future members have and what they want to focus on. They should first find out for themselves what works well for the group. However, we would like to see them, for example, come together on projects for which they raise external funding, give new impetus to the University through interaction with research teams in the faculties, and take a public position on certain issues. I hope that there will also be a link to our Maria Sibylla Merian Institute for Advanced Studies in Africa, which includes the topics of “sustainable governance” and “ecological transformation” among its areas of concentration.

Why does FRIAS offer the right environment for this?

The Center for Interdisciplinary Research at Bielefeld University, the oldest international research college in Germany, has had a Young Academy for almost two decades. We want to adopt this basic idea at FRIAS and reinterpret it under a broad umbrella topic, especially as we already have postdocs from many countries as Junior Fellows with us. A Young Academy is a wonderful addition to everything for which our Institute for Advanced Studies stands: interdisciplinary research and international networking. It’s a perfect fit!

Call for applications

Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies (FRIAS)


Eva Mayr-Stihl Foundation

The Eva Mayr-Stihl Foundation was established in 1986 by Eva Mayr-Stihl and her husband Robert Mayr. One of the focal points of the foundation's work is promoting science and research. At the University of Freiburg, it has significantly promoted the strategic development of research in the broad field of environment and sustainability since the 1990s, in particular with endowed and named professorships, prizes and research funding. It started at the Faculty of Environment and Natural Resources, and later additionally at Department of Sustainable Systems Engineering (INATECH) in the Faculty of Microengineering. The University of Freiburg awarded Eva Mayr-Stihl and Robert Mayr the title of Honorary Senator for their extraordinary contribution to the positive development of the University.