Research and Practice

Research in Practice

In the Bonn Research Alliance (BORA), practice orientation plays a major role through societally relevant transfer services, in cooperation with partners from the private sector, in policy advice and business consulting, and in responsible science-based information to the public.

Science for society

Many non-university research institutions in Germany work in an application-oriented manner on behalf of the state and society to find answers to big questions and solutions to central challenges of our time. Institutions with a focus on foundational research, such as the institutes of the Max Planck Society, also make an important contribution to society. Likewise, universities in the German science system, in addition to teaching and research, provide knowledge for the public good (so-called "third mission"). This can be both "science for society" and "science with society." The former is about transfer of knowledge and technology to society. The latter is mainly characterized by dialogue and transdisciplinarity: Non-academic experts are involved with their knowledge and perspective in the definition of a problem, the development of a research approach and the implementation of the solution. Especially in the context of the transformation to a more sustainable society, this kind of research plays an increasing role.

© Colourbox
Eine Wissenschaftlerin und ein Wissenschaftler arbeiten hinter einer Glasfassade und mischen Chemikalien mit Großgeräten.
© Colourbox

Transfer and transdisciplinarity

Transfer and transdisciplinarity can occur in scientific work in different ways. Examples of transfer are technology transfer, commercialization of a research result or product, patenting and spin-offs (e.g. of start-ups). As an example, at the sustainability Campus Klein-Altendorf of the University of Bonn, transfer takes place in the region. One example of this is the Workbox, a demonstration project for building with renewable raw materials. However, business and policy advice as well as political education and public information based on scientific results and findings are also part of transfer – in the latter case, transitions to science communication are occasionally fluid. Transdisciplinarity is characterized by the fact that disciplinary boundaries are crossed – that is, discipline-based, substantiated knowledge is brought into the practical discourse or a concrete practice. Interdisciplinarity is often characteristic of the research component of such projects.

Communicating scientific findings as a museum

Communicating the knowledge gained by Leibniz institutions to industry, policymakers and society is a key aspect of the Leibniz Association’s strategic objectives. Leibniz institutions respond to society’s information needs and to topical questions. By communicating research findings to non-academic target groups, they play a significant role in developing society’s capacity to reflect and innovate. Questions generated by society are also integrated into research projects at the Leibniz Institutes. In this spirit, the Leibniz Institute for the Analysis of Biodiversity Change (LIB), as a research museum of the Leibniz Association, conducts species-related biodiversity research and ensures the exchange of knowledge in the research field and to the public.

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© Volker Lannert / Universität Bonn

Technology transfer and business consulting

Valuable technological knowledge and know-how are generated every day at the Fraunhofer Institutes. For more than 70 years, the Fraunhofer society has been fulfilling its responsibility to successfully transfer this knowledge and know-how to industry, the public sector and society by contributing to new products, services and processes. Successful technology exploitation requires a broad and differentiated set of transfer pathways, including:

  • Industrial projects and public-private partnerships
  • Intellectual property (IP) exploitation
  • Continuing education for industry
  • Spin-offs and participations
  • Transfer through minds
  • Standardization

The Fraunhofer Institute for Intelligent Analysis and Information Systems IAIS offers companies a broad range of consulting and training services in artificial intelligence, digitalization, as well as sustainability and climate.

The Fraunhofer Institute for Communication, Information Processing and Ergonomics FKIE develops technologies and processes with the aim of identifying existence-threatening risks at an early stage, minimizing them and making them controllable. The research services in the subject areas of Information Acquisition, Decision & Leadership; Cyber & Information Space; Aviation & Space; Maritime Systems; Land Systems; Education & Training range from studies and tests to the development of prototypes.

New technologies, sustainable solutions, innovative medicines: Helmholtz researchers cooperate with industry, advise decision-makers, found companies and license inventions. Finding new solutions for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of neurodegenerative diseases and developing new care concepts for patients with such diseases is the goal of research at the German Center for Neurogenerative Diseases (DZNE) in the Helmholtz Association is to find new solutions for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of neurodegenerative diseases and to develop novel care concepts for patients with such diseases. For this purpose, cooperation with academic and commercial partners and/or licensing of technologies to companies or spin-offs is pursued. The Technology Transfer Office (TTO) assists with all activities along the value chain ranging from the support of industry collaborations, negotiation of agreements for research activities to the commercialization of patents, research results, material and know-how generated at DZNE.

The Max Planck Society conducts foundational research. That is its mission. In Bonn, it is represented by world-leading colleagues in mathematics, radio astronomy, neurobiology of behavior and research into collective goods. However, it does not only produce concentrated knowledge, but also a lot of patents and practically usable inventions; ideas that advance industrial development and form the basis for new products. Since 1970, the Max Planck Society has maintained its own company to promote the transfer of technology, Max Planck Innovation (MI).

enaCom Transfer Center (University of Bonn) sees itself as an intermediary, translator and catalyst between science and stakeholders outside the scientific community. Its work focuses on making research results available for the benefit of society and bringing innovations from research to businesses and into practice. The center provides advice on business start-ups, offers idea checks and coaching, and supports researchers in applying for patents and other intellectual property rights related to their inventions. In order to transfer research results into social and entrepreneurial practice, enaCom pools cooperation with various societal stakeholders. In addition to research collaborations, enaCom oversees transfer projects at the University of Bonn at the levels of professional development, knowledge and technology transfer, and social engagement.

Policy advice and public information

Policy advice is an important aspect of knowledge transfer and works to inform and legitimize the political decision-making process. The research arm of this undertaking focuses on current political debates and issues, generating academic problem analyses and strategies for their solution.

Policy advice can be provided by participation in advisory bodies and advisory committees, as well as by providing policy makers with specific topic-related publications, evaluations, statements and presentations. The German federal government and its ministers are advised by experts from science, business and politics, who carry out this work in independent bodies with different forms, rules of procedure and legal bases. 

The Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods makes an important contribution to society by providing policy advice, e.g. through participation in advisory bodies to the German government and consultations at the EU level.

The Bonn International Centre for Conflict Studies (BICC) combines applied research with policy and technical advice involving the systematic collection and processing of data and geographical information systems. BICC is active in a number of advisory committees working in the area of peace and conflict resolution. It works to support political decision-makers through the provision of individually-tailored specialist publications such as the Peace Report (published since 1987 in cooperation with several peace research institutes), the maintenance of a number of databases such as the Global Militarization Index and the provision of presentations and lectures.

The German Institute of Development and Sustainability (IDOS) provides a comprehensive science-based advisory service to national and international actors and decision-makers in politics, business, academia and the public. IDOS advises, among others, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), European institutions, German public development cooperation institutions, other policy-making institutions and networks.


Bonn - Berlin - Brussels - World

© Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash

Advice to the Federal Government

Many colleagues from BORA member institutions are active in the advisory bodies of the federal government and contribute scientific findings to the shaping of Germany.

© Guillaume Periois on Unsplash

Policy advice at EU level

The EU Commission, its Directorate General as well as the European Parliament increasingly rely on the advice of experts in the different phases of decision-making (e.g. by commissioning expert opinions to research institutes and the participation of scientists in EU committees and expert groups). Advice also flows from Bonn to Brussels.

© Mathias Reding on Unsplash

Cooperation with UN organizations

The University of Bonn and some BORA members (IDOS, MPI Collective Goods, UNU-EHS) collaborate with UN agencies and intergovernmental bodies on assessments and solutions to the global climate and biodiversity crisis.

Practice orientation in teaching

The social changes conditioned by pressing global ecological and social challenges such as climate change and inequalities within and between societies mean that new requirements and expectations are placed on methods and working practices in both research and teaching. Researchers are increasingly working together with partners from research institutes, industry, government, private sector and civil society to analyze problems and develop new solutions. This collaborative approach is also manifested in university teaching practices. Practical classes stimulate students’ problem-solving skills, whilst providing external partners with the opportunity to profit from the innovation and knowledge thereby generated. This approach includes Service Learning offers, the opportunity to combine theoretical learning with social engagement and the UNESCO chairs set up to promote practice-based teaching.

UNESCO Chairs are characterized by excellence in research and teaching conducted in UNESCO’s fields of work. They emphasize international scientific work particularly in North-South and North-South-South cooperation and aim to promote intercultural dialogue. UNESCO Chairs contribute to a more balanced development, dissemination and application of knowledge worldwide to promote sustainable development. The program of the UNESCO chairs established in Germany are geared towards conducting research designed to further the UNESCO goals and the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development with the SDGs at its core. The University of Bonn currently hosts a single UNESCO Chair the UNESCO Chair in Human-Water-Systems held by Prof. Dr. Mariele Evers. This was set up as the result of collaboration between the University of Bonn and UNESCO and is one of 14 UNESCO Chairs in Germany, all of which contribute to the implementation of the Global Sustainability Agenda.

The endowment of new chairs at the University of Bonn permits a range of new, often practical research in a range of areas, such as the endowed professorship "Global Health - Social and Cultural Aspects" (Dr. Hans Riegel Foundation), the Endowed Professorship of Public Law (Gottfried Meulenberg Foundation), the Endowed Professorship of Science Research and Policy (Mercator Foundation), the Endowed Professorship of Christian Archaeology (partly financed by the Gielen-Leyendecker Foundation), the Endowed Professorship of Cell Biology and Molecular Drug Research (Engelhard Arzneimittel) or the Endowed Professorship of Digital Material Appearance (X-Rite Europe GmbH). Funded by industry, public funding agencies such as federal ministries, as well as associations, foundations and institutions, these endowed professorships serve to reinforce cooperation between universities and external partners.

Service Learning is a form of teaching and learning that combines academic learning with social engagement. Seeking to match its teaching provision to the practical requirements of real-world social needs, Service Learning provides its students with the opportunity to apply their theoretical knowledge in a range of practical situations and learn more about a range of non-profit contexts from partners active in this sector. The Service Learning Coordination Office at the University of Bonn seeks to promote social participation amongst its students and teaching staff, supports cooperation with the non-profit sector and carves out an active role for the University of Bonn in German and European civil society.

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