The tremendous dynamism of global urbanisation, the complexity and diversity of urban change, and the urgent need to master the great social challenges – among which the shaping of sustainable and socially inclusive cities has undoubtedly to be included – have all contributed to a globally perceptible increase in the importance of inter- and trans-disciplinary urban and regional research. In recent times, political and social actors have repeatedly emphasised the relevance of studying the drivers, effects and possible forms of new urbanisation from the point of view of sustainability. Sustainable development solutions for urban spaces can only be found by way of collaboration among scholars, municipalities and social actors. This involves new formats for trans-disciplinary research and collaborative projects in which scholars and partners from the field of practice have equal input.
The ILS is increasingly involved in this collaboration, since its research efforts are in subject areas that are at the heart of the debate on the “urban transformation toward sustainability”. Contributions to solving urban transport problems or to promoting integration and inclusion in socially polarised, multi-cultural and multi-ethnic urban societies are some examples. We also have many years of experience in conducting trans-disciplinary research projects. The contributions of the ILS to solving problems of urban society and urban space are always based on knowledge-oriented foundational research, meeting international standards of scholarly excellence.
In this context, we are increasingly looking at developments in other European countries and also outside of Europe. The demonstration of commonalities and diversity in urban development in different locations, while showing the greatest possible sensitivity to the contextual conditions that apply in each case, can be described as the mission and ethos of globally acting comparative urban research. The ILS is explicitly committed to such an ethos. Hence, we want to put empirical findings that come principally from examining European urban development into context with developments in other world regions, in a comparative perspective.
Thanks to this new research programme – the fifth since the 2008 relaunch of the institute – we are taking up new themes, but at the same time maintaining continuity with subject areas in which the ILS is long established. In the form of four focus projects, the programme concretises the research areas set out in the more long-term-oriented ILS 2018+ research strategy. A key objective here is the further internationalisation of our research, which we want to intensify by taking up international debates and strengthening international networks. This objective is also reflected in comparative research designs and the involvement of partner institutions from abroad. Thus, several of the projects in the research programme pursue an explicitly comparative approach cutting across national borders.
A second key objective of the new programme is to bring about a still closer interconnection of the topics on which the ILS research groups are working. Thanks to the development of larger integrated research projects (“focus projects”), we want to exploit the potential of inter-disciplinary urban research even more consistently. Increased integration of research on sustainable settlement structures, urban planning and mobility is of particularly great significance here.
Finally, the 2018-2020 research programme also places new emphasis on the promotion of young scholars. All of the focus projects will be directed by post-doctoral researchers and greater attention will be paid to integrating thematically related dissertation projects into research. The design of the self-financed projects of this programme is thus also connected to the institute's strategic objective of promoting excellence among its post-doctoral scholars and doctoral students.
By implementing the research programme, the ILS takes yet another step in consolidating its unique position in inter- and trans-disciplinary, as well as internationally oriented, urban research. We hope all readers will find the programme stimulating.