What is the added value for urban development of implementing the UN Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs)?

Research questions

  • How advanced are German municipalities with regard to making their grid-bound infrastructure, consumption, sharing, reuse and recycling systems future-proof?
  • What concrete value added does implementing the UN SDGs, especially SDG 12 (transition to circular economy) have for urban development?
  • Where is there the need for successful adaptation to future challenges? (Adaptation of collection systems, sharing systems, information systems, attitude towards recycling/correct collection, infrastructures, urban planning, ...)
  • How to quantify development goals and determine goal achievement?
  • What synergies and trade-offs exist between development goals and what role do urban areas play here?
  • With regard to the megatrends of urbanization and population growth: How can the development goals be achieved in the Global South, circular systems established and value created at the same time?  


Review of the Multi-Tier Framework for monitoring the Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG7) of the United Nations

This project provides a review of the Multi-Tier Framework (MTF) which is currently used for monitoring the progress towards the SDG7 targets. The present MTF focuses mainly on the requirements of private households. Within this project, a proposal for extending the MTF is developed, which considers the significant role of productive uses of electricity in developing and emerging economies. By providing a systematic analysis of the electricity access requirements of various types of commercial and industrial applications, the results aim to support the implementation of sustainable energy strategies, i.e. the development of energy supply solutions which are sustainable and in line with people’s needs.

Morgenstadt Global Smart Cities Initiative

MGI's primary objective is to mitigate the consequences of climate change in the pilot cities (Kochi in India; Saltillo in Mexico and Piura in Peru), to increase their resilience towards climate risks and to ensure the preservation of natural resources. The close international cooperation with partners from research, economy and politics, the exchange of knowledge and experience between the pilot cities as well as the expertise of the Morgenstadt Network are therefore the key to success.

Transition of Water InfraSTructure sytems: Adapting to new challenges in urban and rural areas (TWIST++)

This project aims to find integrated and sustainable technical solutions that combine disposal tasks for wastewater with supply tasks for drinking water and increase the flexibility of the overall system to adapt to future changes. A project consortium has been formed led by Fraunhofer ISI, which includes companies from the fields of planning, software/game development and systems engineering alongside research institutes and partners from local authorities, as well as the water and wastewater sector (operators).  

Transition design for sustainable innovations – Initiatives in the municipal fields of action energy, water, construction & housing (TransNIK)

Innovative approaches towards sustainability can be observed in various areas, including traditional municipal fields of action, such as: energy supply, water supply & sewage disposal, as well as construction and housing. TransNIK aims to investigate drivers and obstacles for the development and dissemination of innovative sustainable approaches in these three fields of action and to identify key points for a transition to new solutions.

Bundled infrastructure planning and admissions and integrated conversion of regional supply systems – challenges for environmental and sustainability assessments? (INTEGRIS)

The overall aim of this research project is to find out how bundling infrastructures can create more environmentally friendly solutions. They should be transferable to the whole of Germany in terms of admission and planning regulations and in terms of their immediate spatial impact and the sustainable regional d evelopment. It is investigated which barriers result from expanding potentially intended bundled infrastructures and how these can be overcome.

Climate protection and energy efficiency potentials in the wastewater sector (KlimAW)

The primary objective of the research project is to determine the contribution that the wastewater sector could make to achieving the climate targets. The aim is to identify adaptation requirements with regard to a consistent optimization of wastewater treatment plants and their integration into the energy system and reveal factors hindering implementation.

Scientific monitoring of two pilot projects to increase the collection rates of waste electrical and electronic equipment in Baden-Wuerttemberg (SEEK)

The project is to monitor two model projects at recycling centers and classify the results. Based on this, scientifically-sound statements can be made about the effectiveness of the measures conducted in the model projects at increasing the collection rate of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE). Practical and generalizable action recommendations for public waste disposal operations in Baden-Wuerttemberg will be made based on the insights from these model projects, but also building on scientific findings from the research literature. In addition, alternative ways of disposing of large WEEE will be explored in order to better estimate the collection volumes of these alternatives.  


  • Niederste-Hollenberg, J.; Schirmer, G.; Borger, J.; Winkler, J.; Zheng, L.; Fritz, M.; Hillenbrand, T.; Kolisch, G. (2020): Die Potenziale der Energieeinsparung in der Abwasserwirtschaft; Ökologisches Wirtschaften (2020), Nr.3, S.47-50; ISSN: 1430-8800.
  • Sartorius, C.; Hillenbrand; T.; Niederste-Hollenberg, J. (2019): Multikriterielle Bewertung von Wasserinfrastruktursystemen im Kontext der SDGs. In: W. Leal Filho (Hrsg.): Aktuelle Ansätze zur Umsetzung der UN-Nachhaltigkeitsziele, S. 271-289, Springer Spektrum, Berlin, Heidelberg; Print ISBN 978-3-662-58716-4; Online ISBN 978-3-662-58717-1.
  • Dütschke, E.; Köhler, J.; Laws, N.; Hacke, U.; Niederste-Hollenberg, J.; Wesche, J. (2019): Kommunen als Motoren einer Nachhaltigkeitstransformation – Erfahrungen aus den Feldern Energie, Wasser und Wohnen. In: W. Leal Filho (eds), Aktuelle Ansätze zur Umsetzung der UN-Nachhaltigkeitsziele, pp 79-98, Springer Spektrum, Berlin, Heidelberg; Print ISBN 978-3-662-58716-4; Online ISBN 978-3-662-58717-1.
  • Boie, I.; Steinbach, J.; Christ, C.; Ashley-Belbin, N.; Lösch, O.; Denishchenkova, A.; Ordonez, J. (2018). Next level sustainable energy provision in line with people’s needs – A proposal for extending the Multi-Tier Framework for monitoring the SDG7. Fraunhofer ISI, IREES GmbH commissioned by GIZ and supported by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), Karlsruhe, Germany.
  • Hillenbrand, T.; Eckartz, K.; Hiessl, H.; Hohmann, C.; Niederste-Hollenberg, J. (2018): Transition urbaner Wasserinfrastruktursysteme – notwendig und machbar? In: Korrespondenz Abwasser, Abfall, 2018 (65), Nr. 2. S. 121-129.

Method portfolio

  • Transdisciplinary research through City Labs
  • Analyses of market, competition and value chains
  • Quantitative and qualitative technology assessment
  • LCA, sustainability evaluations, indicators
  • Scenario analyses
  • Input-output analyses
  • Socio-economic evaluations
  • Modeling of employment effects
  • Decomposition analyses
  • Multiple benefits analyses