Transition Engineering in Germany

Professor Susan Krumdieck was invited to TU Chemnitz in Germany to deliver a keynote address to all faculties, and a workshop on Transition Engineering for the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering as part of the university’s first Transition Days, 23-24 November. Professors from across the faculties presented aspects of their group’s research that gives attention to sustainability.

The keynote address highlighted the breakthrough concept that created Transition Engineering – unsustainable aspects of successful engineered systems are the source of risks like global warming and biodiversity loss, these risks are observed by science and unacceptable to society, therefore engineers knowledgeable in these systems are responsible for designing and delivering the transitions to future-safe, sustainable, resilient systems. A vigorous discussion session with researchers from health, psychology, sociology, business and engineering explored the idea that Transition Engineering is an interdisciplinary field like Safety Engineering and how it could rapidly emerge by convergence of current sustainability science and engineering, action research with industry and development of standards and methods.

PhD student, Florian Ahrens and Professor Krumdieck then facilitated a workshop with the Mechanical Engineering Faculty that worked through the methods and processes in an example project looking at the wicked problem faced by an incumbent German boiler manufacturing company. The professors presented sustainability research on topics like utilising wood in manufacturing handling equipment, extruding biopolymers, recycling thermoplastics and sustainable refrigerants. The discussion centred around the possibility for the systems level expertise in engineering to become central to projects that deliver downshift of unsustainable aspects of incumbent technological enterprise and end use services. The outcome of the Transition Days was agreement to continue the discussions, and to build research and teaching collaborations with a Transition Labs Network.