The City of Cities – an excellent research location

UA Ruhr alliance brings together universities and the world of business

We met up with Dr Hans Stallmann, coordinator of the university alliance (UA Ruhr), on the campus of Ruhr University Bochum (RUB). This is where the education boom began in the 1960s. Now, as then, a spirit of optimism is spreading. Highly modern building complexes intermingle with huge concrete structures which were at the cutting edge back when the higher education landscape was emerging in the Ruhr region. Cranes tower high into the air, jackhammers clatter and construction workers take a break next to students on the steps of the university’s art collection …

Dr Stallmann, no matter which university you visit in the Ruhr Metropolis, there is building work going on everywhere.

Stallmann: Yes, that’s right! The universities and research institutions are building, renovating and modernising. The RUB campus alone is being brought up to date at a cost of over one billion euros – with the latest technology and state-of-the-art laboratories.

There is also a great deal of building work because the number of people studying has risen significantly in recent years. More than 290,000 young people now study in the Ruhr Metropolis, which with over 22 higher education establishments and non-university research institutions has grown to become one of Europe’s biggest regions for science.

What does this mean for the Ruhr Metropolis in general?

Stallmann: The universities attract young people and make sure that they stay in the Ruhr Metropolis. As a result, a large number of well-qualified individuals are available to companies in the region. In times of economic prosperity this is a real advantage for the location.

We are currently on a Ruhr university alliance campus. What exactly is that?

Stallmann: In the Ruhr university alliance (UA Ruhr) we – the RUB, TU Dortmund University and the University of Duisburg-Essen (UDE) – pool skills and resources to further enhance our capability and competitiveness. Since it was founded in 2007, the UA Ruhr has grown very dynamically and reached a networking level that is unique in Germany. With more than 120,000 students and 1,300 professors, the UA Ruhr is one of Germany’s biggest and highest-performing science locations.

The three universities involved in the UA Ruhr have joined a business alliance known as the ‘Initiativkreis Ruhr’ in order to improve cooperation with the world of business even further. No fewer than 70 leading companies from the region have teamed up here. We work in partnership on projects to bring students and researchers together with company boardrooms and development departments. Here, too, our aim is to stimulate the entrepreneurial spirit in the Ruhr Metropolis.

Can you give us some examples of partnerships?

Stallmann: The ‘Materials Chain’ and ‘Ruhr Explores Solvation’ projects are both outstanding examples of our cooperation partnerships. All areas of materials science and production technology are linked at the three universities under the ‘Materials Chain’ umbrella in order to combine the focus areas of more than 200 existing research groups.

The ‘Ruhr Explores Solvation’ research cluster has already been funded as part of the DFG’s Excellence Initiative and is bringing together a number of regional and international partners from the world of science and business. The aim is to research chemical reactions and industrial and biological processes in the liquid phase.

In addition, there are more than 100 cooperation partnerships in research and teaching as well as between the university administration departments.

Is this also being embraced internationally?

Stallmann: Yes, internationality is a very big part of the UA Ruhr. We cooperate with some of the world’s most renowned universities, such as Harvard, Princeton and Berkeley in the USA. They focus more strongly on us as a business location that has joined forces than on the individual universities. And our three liaison offices in New York, Moscow and São Paulo help our up-and-coming scientists to get their international research, teaching and studying projects off the ground.