Knowledge for the world: Helmholtz to fund four innovative transfer projects

(lifePR) ( Berlin, )
Helmholtz is set to fund scientists who want to make their findings useful for everyday life with up to 1.2 million euros. Four such knowledge transfer projects have now been selected in a second round of calls: in the areas of urban development, climate-adapted agriculture, security at major events, and the provision of satellite data.

Researchers at Helmholtz contribute to solving our society’s grand challenges – be it climate change, energy transition, data security, or widespread diseases. “However, in order to have the greatest possible effect, these newly gained insights must be applied in society,” says Otmar D. Wiestler, President of the Helmholtz Association. “That is why transferring this knowledge to the general public, the economy, and politics plays a key role for us.”

In a second round of calls, Helmholtz is now funding four more particularly innovative projects in the field of knowledge transfer. Over a period of up to four years, up to 1.2 million euros will be available to each of them. Half of the money comes from the Helmholtz President’s Initiative and Networking Fund, while the other half is contributed by the Helmholtz Centers involved in developing the ideas.

“Sound scientific findings are an important foundation for making groundbreaking decisions for our future,” according to Otmar D. Wiestler. “The projects we’ve just selected will contribute to this. They should therefore be continued after the funding period has finished and actively strengthen knowledge transfer in their fields.”

The four funded projects are:

1. Increased security for visitors at major events

The Loveparade 2010 in Duisburg tragically demonstrated that, despite long-term planning of major events, a life-threatening crowd can materialize if the projected visitor flows are not reliable. Although traffic simulations are increasingly commissioned by organizers to verify safety, the quality of the tools used and the reliability of their results are often inadequate. The funded project aims to provide approval authorities and planning offices with a scientifically validated open source tool to better calculate and evaluate the dynamics of traffic flows at major events. Two simulation tools developed by Helmholtz Centers will be combined for this purpose: JuPedSim from Forschungszentrum Jülich for predicting pedestrian traffic and Sumo from the German Aerospace Center (DLR), a simulation tool for urban traffic. The combination of both tools should enable a holistic, reliable view of all traffic flows at events. Meanwhile, the project partners intend to offer pilot training courses for staff at planning offices and approval authorities in collaboration with the Federal Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance – Academy for Crisis Management, Emergency Planning and Civil Protection (AKNZ) and the International Training Centre for Crowd and Safety Management (IBIT). This will enable them to critically review the planning of major events and to identify and avoid security deficits at an early stage.

2. Consulting for building-integrated photovoltaics

Buildings, facades, and streets offer large surfaces that can be used for decentralized power generation using photovoltaics. Buildings could simultaneously store excess solar power and provide charging stations for electric vehicles for example. Although the feasibility of building-integrated photovoltaic solutions has already been demonstrated, they are rarely used. The reason for this is a lack of expertise on the part of developers, architects, and urban planners. Innovative photovoltaic solutions have been the focus of research at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin für Materialien und Energie (HZB) for many years. This expertise will be passed on primarily to architects, developers, investors, and urban planners through the establishment of a national consulting office for building-integrated photovoltaics. The consulting office aims to identify available technologies, products, technical feasibility, and legal framework conditions and to offer specific professional development and training in close cooperation with chambers of architects. Additionally, the exchange between research, manufacturers, architectural offices, and customers should help to identify potentials and needs, and derive relevant research priorities for the future.

3. Innovative simulation-based products for weather and climate resilient agriculture – ADAPTER

Rising temperatures, prolonged heat waves, and changing precipitation patterns: In addition to existing short-term weather fluctuations, climate change will pose major challenges for agriculture in the coming decades. Farmers and other stakeholders in the agricultural sector will need better information on short-term weather changes, weather extremes, water resources, and regional climate change in order to take action. It is precisely this expertise that the ADAPTER project from Forschungszentrum Jülich and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht – Zentrum für Material- und Küstenforschung (HZG) aims to provide. One focus of the project is to optimize the management of current agricultural production such as irrigation and fertilization requirements as well as sowing and harvesting times using hourly, almost parcel-specific, area-wide predictions of relevant parameters for the coming 10 to 15 days. At the same time, users are to be equipped with soil moisture sensors as part of a citizen science approach. Their data will be incorporated into the forecasts to make them more precise. Processed forecast results and interactive, site-specific observation data will be available via the ADAPTER product platform. Another priority is to support the development of appropriate adaptation strategies for regional climate change. A practice network will be gradually built up with the participants to accomplish this goal. Additionally, interactive tools will be developed that combine scientific results – such as regional climate projections – with local practical knowledge, and promote the development of suitable options for action and adaptation strategies.

4. Satellite data for planning, industry, energy, and nature conservation (SAPIENS)

Reliable and up-to-date geoinformation such as satellite data are important decision-making aids in the public, economic, and private sectors, as they provide valuable information in areas such as urban planning, energy management, and environmental protection. A survey of authorities and business representatives in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland showed that a lack of expertise is seen as the biggest problem in the use of this data. This is where the project "SAPIENS: Satellitendaten für Planung, Industrie, Energiewirtschaft und Naturschutz" (SAPIENS: Satellite Data for Planning, Industry, Energy and Nature Conservation) from Helmholtz Centre Potsdam – German Research Centre for Geosciences GFZ comes in: It processes remote sensing data, in particular from the earth observation program Copernicus, and the possibilities of applying this data with target group-specific training courses and webinars. In the future, this will enable employees of state and local authorities as well as SMEs and NGOs to efficiently integrate free satellite data into their own work processes and make evidence-based decisions.
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