Environmental research and governance in the digital age

The digital age is characterized by a broad range of developments: the interplay of dispersed and centralized, fragmented and uniform, volatile and stable, dynamic and slow developments may amount to large societal phenomena rapidly (e.g. opinion building via social network effects, power structures behind digital platforms). Against that background, digitization is also a challenge for environmental research and governance. For the Federal Environmental Ministry (BMU) and its subordinated agencies (UBA, BfN, BfS, BASE) this challenge means,

  1. to direct digitization in its entire breadth and diversity into environmentally friendly boundaries,
  2. to benefit from the environmental opportunites of digitization and from the opportunites for a socio-ecological transformation of the economy,
  3. to recognize the changes caused by digitization in its own environment, and
  4. to make use of these changes, in order to position itself anew in relation to environmental research and governance and to redesign its tasks accordingly.

The project aims at working up the subject “environmental research and governance in the digital age“ for the Federal Ministry of the Environment and its agencies through strategic foresight. For that purpose, a focused horizon scanning process is carried out, encompassing two basic effects patterns of digitization:

  1. How does digitization change the environment of the Federal Ministry of the Environment and its agencies? How do the target groups of politics change, the political systems themselves, the conceptions of democracy and opinion building processes? How do these changes feed back on environmental research and governance in the future?
  2. Which developments and trends prompted by digitization exist within environmental research and governance, that could be picked up by the Federal Ministry of the Environment and its agencies and thereby change themselves?

As a result, a comprehensive, structured and elaborated synopsis of themes and developments will be given that emerge “on the horizon“ (horizon scanning report). In addition, five particularly relevant future themes will be analyzed in depth to develop concrete suggestions, what they could mean for the Federal Ministry of the Environment and its agencies (five brochures).

The Competence Center Foresight of Fraunhofer ISI leads the project. The Competence Center Policy and Society, the Competence Center Emerging Technologies and the Competence Center Sustainability and Infrastructure Systems are involved as co-operation partners.


08/2020 – 11/2022


Federal Environmental Agency (UBA)