TUM Nexus Lab

TUM Nexus Lab conceptual framework

Nexus@TUM: TUM as frontrunner university with a targeted research and teaching agenda on Water-Energy-Food (WEF) Nexus

TUM offers specialization in the Field of Study „Water-Energy-Food Nexus”

The growth-dependent global economy is driving over-consumption of natural resources such as water, energy and food worldwide, especially in cities. This in turn is driving degradation of the environment and speeds up the negative effects of climate change. The advocacy for economic growth has benefitted a miniscule percentage of the world population, and resulted in immense increases in greenhouse gas emissions, whilst communities around the globe struggle to gain access to basic services and decent living conditions. Climate change has been a known fact since the 1960’s and scientists have been warning of its impacts for decades. Yet climate action is extraordinarily slow despite the acute need to act by 2030 and prevent disastrous consequences. Innovative integrated urban planning approaches to enable development and implementation of sustainable urban transformation pathways supporting a systemic socio-technical revolution and a shift to a more circular economy are needed to address this situation. 

TUM makes a targeted contribution to solving this issue through its Nexus@TUM research and teaching agenda focusing on expanding the Water-Energy-Food (WEF) Nexus topic. Nexus@TUM’s premise is that worldwide natural resources over-consumption patterns derive in significant part from conventional sectoral planning. Referring to the WEF Nexus approach coined by Prof. Hoff in 2011, Nexus@TUM highlights how integrated urban planning that is planning the sectors water, energy and food and others in conjunction can enable more efficient resource use, thus reducing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating climate change. Integrated urban planning can also augment climate change adaptation, particularly by supporting efficient water management. Thus, the Nexus approach can enhance water, energy and food security. The Nexus@TUM approach encompasses inter-related sectors and domains (such as land, transport, solid waste management) and adjacent fields of study such as ecosystem management. It takes the WEF sectors as a starting point to break down complexity to enable deriving holistic and implementable solutions. The WEF Nexus approach underscores that responsible governance is key to effective implementation. Hence, Nexus@TUM aims to build on an environmental engineering perspective by integrating all three pillars of sustainability and connecting these to social, institutional, legal, political, and economic aspects, in an equal manner (Figure 1). Nexus@TUM further acknowledges that the issue at hand pertains equally to contexts in developing as in developed economies.

The Nexus@TUM research and teaching agenda comprises three parts: 1) TUM Nexus Lab, launched in 2021, an overarching entity clustering Nexus-related research and teaching activities at TUM, 2) Nexus research group, established at TUM in 2013, and 3) Field of Study 11: Water-Energy-Food Nexus, a specialization in the Environmental Engineering master program.

The TUM Nexus Lab is a virtual lab coordinated by the Chair of Urban Water Systems Engineering, which acts as an overarching entity clustering Nexus-related research and teaching activities at TUM. By showcasing ongoing projects and collaborations between various TUM schools on the Nexus topic, the lab reflects the momentum in place on the topic inside TUM, and illustrates project and knowledge partnerships beyond TUM. Inside TUM, the TUM Nexus Lab brings together the Chair of Urban Water Systems Engineering; Chair of Hydrology and River Basin Management; and Chair of Land Management / Centre of Land, Water and Environmental Risk Management at the School of Engineering and Design; Chair of Agricultural Production and Resource Economics and and Chair of Urban Productive Ecosystems at the School of Life Sciences; Chair of Environmental and Climate Policy and Professorship of Policy Analysis at the School of Social Science and Technology; Chair of Circular Economy at Campus Straubing; Chair of Renewable and Sustainable Energy Systems at the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering; TUM SEED Centre and others. TUM Nexus Lab members co-author research articles and funding proposals, and co-supervise master students on the WEF Nexus topic, with the aim of building momentum on the Nexus topic at TUM and beyond.