New Centre for Design and Innovation for Sustainable Transitions at the new Aalborg University campus located in the South Harbour of Copenhagen

The former section ‘Innovation and Sustainability’ and the ‘Urban Management’ group, both from the Department of Management Engineering at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU), have agreed with Aalborg University to move to Aalborg University’s new campus located in Sydhavnen, Copenhagen. Together with researchers from Aalborg University (AAU) the groups will be engaged in the establishment of a new Centre of Design and Innovation for Sustainable Transitions (name still tentative). The research and teaching will focus on the sustainable design of products, services and socio-technical systems, sustainability transitions, sustainable consumption and production, and urban and regional development; based on common inspiration from science and technology studies. To support sustainable transitions new forms of economic governance and models are needed, as well as new forms of innovation policy that involve a broader range of societal actors. The necessary changes in governance and policy will also be the focus of the new centre.

The transfer of the two groups of researchers from DTU is a response to organizational restructuring and budget cuts which targeted the STS-approach developed there. The new management of the department decided to split the groups in spite of a recent successful research evaluation and considerable teaching achievements in the very successful engineering design education that was developed ten years ago. The controversy over the role of STS at the university has existed for a long time, despite it being developed with support from the former rector at DTU during the 1990s. The focus on, and contributions to, the field of STS was a deliberate response to a lack of relevance of more classic social science courses developed at DTU since the late 1970s. The deliberate goal of bringing in STS perspectives was to create more focus on technology in society and to contribute professionally relevant competences to the field of engineering. The groups have consequently been involved in the development of, for example, Engineering Studies and the introduction of STS approaches to Urban Studies.

The focus of the new strategy and organization of the department has been guided by the recent rector’s attempts to re-invigorate a more technical and science centered (technocratic) focus in DTU’s research and educational priorities. This has involved continued pressure at the department since the mid 2000s to prioritize quantitative methods and mathematical models over ethnographic and qualitative research approaches. The event which finally led the groups to consider alternative places to pursue their academic contributions was a newly appointed department management emphasizing a classic business school approach to technology and engineering with emphasis on innovation management and marketing. This left little scope for further development of the groups’ activities within the department.

The transfer involves about 30 people, including PhD students and post docs, and takes place 1st of August 2012.

 

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