Aims and Structure

In order to fully understand the complex relationships at work in cities and metropolitan regions, it is essential to not only study the built environment and its technical infrastructures but also analyse and describe the political, social, cultural, economic and ecological conditions, requirements, problems and consequences of urban life. This is the only way to obtain valid indicators of the quality of life of urban dwellers on the most diverse levels and use them as a basis for devising strategies for sustainable urban development. It takes many different disciplines to do this, which is why Urban Systems at the UDE is one of the broadest-based research centres of its kind in the world. For the researchers at the UDE it is a discussion and working forum, but it also integrates in its work other scientific and academic, economic, social and political actors from the region. The main research area thus makes a visible and meaningful contribution to interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary inquiry into urban systems. It also focuses the activities of the UDE within the UA Ruhr’s Competence Field Metropolitan Research, which was established in 2017.

Central to the main research area are two major scientific research institutions, the Centre for Water and Environmental Research (ZWU) and the Centre for Logistics and Traffic (ZLV). The Chair of Urban Epidemiology, which was set up in 2012 and coordinates urban health research in the Centre for Urban Epidemiology (CuE), is an important link to the medical faculty.

Centre for Water and Environmental Research (ZWU)

The ZWU currently has 150 members and combines the water and environmental research of the various faculties at the University of Duisburg-Essen and the water expertise of its partner institutions within the UA Ruhr (Ruhr University Bochum, TU Dortmund University), several universities of applied sciences (e.g. Hochschule Ruhr West, EBZ Business School, Westfälische Hochschule), and regional research institutions (e.g. IWW Water Centre, Institute of Energy and Environmental Technology, Fraunhofer UMSICHT). What sets the ZWU apart from other water research centres in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) and also nationwide is the interdisciplinary nature of work on major collaborative projects with partners from the natural sciences, engineering, economics and social sciences. This interdisciplinary approach makes it possible to develop innovative complete system solutions, which must take into account the impact cities have on ecosystems and water resources, but also contribute to sustainable urban development.

The ZWU focuses on water research and has very broad expertise in the fields of Water Ecology, Drinking Water Treatment and Distribution (contamination, evaluation, rehabilitation), Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, Water Management and Urban Water Management, Hydrology, Hydraulic Engineering, and Water Governance, including the legal and economic implications thereof. Another feature of its activities is that they integrate industry and municipal representatives, NRW’s specialstatus water boards, the water suppliers and the relevant local state authorities. These close links with users is unique in Germany and is reflected in numerous joint research projects and inclusion in teaching.  


Centre for Logistics and Traffic (ZLV)

The Centre for Logistics and Traffic combines the expertise of around 85 scientists from the University of Duisburg-Essen and its affiliated institutes in modern approaches to research on the cross-disciplinary functions of logistics, supply chain management (SCM), traffic and mobility in society and the economy. A special feature of the ZLV by international comparison is the interdisciplinary collaboration between a total of 34 academic chairs and institutes in seven faculties. In recent years a joint research strategy has evolved in “Emerging Concepts of Logistics” (ECoL). It focuses on the intersections between logistics and the neighbouring fields of science in interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary cooperation with economic and social stakeholder groups. The city and urban systems are a focal point of ECoL activities within a growing national and international network of different project formats and partnerships.

The central areas of expertise of the ZLV’s members include intelligent transport systems (ITS), urban logistics clusters, comprehensive ICT applications in logistics or transport systems, application of operations research (OR) methods and simulations, e.g. in the context of urban evacuation scenarios, new and sustainable mobility services, and optimisation of decentralised renewable energy networks. Since approval of the first German cluster of excellence for logistics, urban supply systems has become a significant part of sustainability research at the ZLV. Its approaches to research, e.g. in food supply to cities under the effects of climate change, bridge the gap between production, distribution and consumption systems from a supply-chain perspective and relate them to changes in lifestyles and new service and business models. Within the UA Ruhr Competence Field Metropolitan Research, the ZLV is responsible for coordination of the “Resilient infrastructures and processes” research.

Centre for Urban Epidemiology (CUE)

Urban health is the central thematic area for CUE. The key question is how to design a city that can offer all residents the best possible chance of good health, taking into account the complex urban influencing factors. The main research area is an ideal basis for this research, as it facilitates exchange between health sciences and disciplines related to urban planning, human geography, informatics and economics, and the expertise of the ZWU and ZLV.

Research draws on the comprehensive source of epidemiological data in the population-based Heinz Nixdorf Recall Study and the subsequent Heinz Nixdorf Recall MultiGeneration Study, and on related microlevel data sets. Urban development and health-related themes are combined with the aid of indicator-based data and mapped using geographic information systems.

A specific example is CUE’s work with the Chair of Landscape Ecology and Landscape Planning in the School of Spatial Planning, TU Dortmund University, in which urban soundscapes at neighbourhood level are measured and associated with the built environment, socio-economic conditions, and health. The goal is to identify beneficial effects of urban soundscapes on health as a necessary extension of noise research. The interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research approach is especially apparent in the work on the health effects of the Emscher river conversion project. Renaturalisation of the Emscher incorporates technological, social, cultural, political, economic, infrastructural and environmental aspects that can directly and indirectly affect health.