Structural change

What’s next after lignite? How can high-quality jobs be kept in the region while also creating new ones? And what role does science and research play in this process that will radically transform the identity of the lignite region surrounding Jülich today?

The structural change in the Rhineland raises a whole series of questions and is one of the central societal challenges not just for the lignite region, but for North Rhine-Westphalia as a whole. To meet this challenge, the lignite-mining region has to be transformed. This structural change has already begun – and Forschungszentrum Jülich is helping to actively shape it. Both its excellent scientific expertise and its special location in the heart of the Rhineland are valuable to this effort.

Structural change will profoundly change the region. Forschungszentrum Jülich is intent on actively shaping this transformation.

Forschungszentrum Jülich / Sascha Kreklau

Since the Federal Government’s coalition agreement was reached in early 2018, it has been agreed that lignite will be phased out and will no longer be in use across Germany by 2038 at the latest based on the recommendation of the Commission on Growth, Structural Change and Employment. The first local power plant blocks are scheduled to go offline by 2022. Forschungszentrum Jülich is right in the middle of the Rhineland, one of the four lignite-mining regions in Germany. As a source of knowledge and major employer in the region, Forschungszentrum Jülich will assume responsibility in helping to make structural change a success here: With the help of scientific innovations in the three future fields of information, energy, and the bioeconomy, Forschungszentrum Jülich aims to contribute to creating new value chains, with which high-quality jobs can be kept in the region while also creating new jobs.

Forschungszentrum Jülich is pursuing this aim in close collaboration with many other stakeholders in the region and has adopted a clear position – the first major projects have successfully launched: Three projects – BioökonomieREVIER, the iNEW innovation platform, and the NEUROTEC high-tech project – were launched in the second half of 2019 as part of the Federal Government’s immediate action programme for structural change and are intended to be continued where possible.

Jülich also has other ideas to support the structural change. For example, Forschungszentrum Jülich is currently working in close consultation with the federal and state governments on a concept for a new Helmholtz cluster: The aim is to turn the Rhineland region into an innovation and demonstration region for a sustainable hydrogen economy. In addition, some facilities, for example the latest methods in artificial intelligence and cognitive data analysis, could be made available for regional partners from business and science. In turn, the “ER-C 2.0” infrastructure platform is intended to help companies in driving the advancement of new technologies for the development of innovative materials. What’s more, establishing an innovation centre for applied quantum technologies could help to bring together science and business in the pursuit of research and development. A transfer and conference centre could also help as a site for dialogue between all the stakeholders in the structural change. All these examples show that Forschungszentrum Jülich is energetically supporting the transformation in the region with a whole range of ideas.

Last Modified: 23.03.2023