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International Conference | 21. - 22. November 2019

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In fashion design, very diverse competences are combined to create something new. Increasingly, this is done via specialized digital platforms. The interplay of various platforms in creative design processes – labeled the “platform ecology” – as well as the interplay of online and offline interaction, are the topic of the lead project in research department “Dynamics of Economic Spaces”.

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Transportation, energy, communication – how do infrastructure networks get to be labelled as “critical infrastructures”? In its lead project, the research department “Institutional Change and Regional Public Goods” looks at the construction of criticality. Urban climate adaptation and energy transitions serve as fields of study.

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Digitalisation is more than broadband access. How do villages shape and use digital technologies to solve their problems? Who are the drivers and which problems occur? In its lead project, the research department “Dynamics of Communication, Knowledge and Spatial Development” investigates the pathways of digitalisation in rural areas.

Migration: Governance-dilemmata of Cities

This research project investigates the dynamics of urban policy formulation in response to international migration.

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For a long time, in historical research on the GDR and the FRG, the opposition of ideologies and systems took centre stage. However, there were parallel developments too. The Department for Historical Research in its lead project looks at socio-spatial disparities in both German states, tracing both differences and commonalities.


Research at the IRS is focused on the spatial aspects and contexts of social action. In doing so, spatial phenomena are explored in terms of both processual and historical dimensions using social-scientific methods.

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To describe, to analyse and to understand the complexity and interrelation of space, social action and processes of socio-spatial transformation is the key concern of IRS’ research.


16. October | 2019

Cities are routinely eulogized as harbingers of progress and emancipation, as the locus of innovation and creativity. And, in fact, the historical record of cities in engendering artistic, scientific or societal creativity from the ancient Greece polis over Renaissance Florence, Modern Art Paris to New York’s ‘Warhol Economy’ is impressive. More recently, though, discords began to mingle with the harmonious choir praising the allegedly greatest invention of humanity. The fixation with the unique affordances of urban places, as the critique maintains, has systematically impoverished our understanding of creativity in the periphery. To rectify this urban bias, a veritable stream of research initiatives has been launched more recently to push the focus of scholarly debate on creativity from center to periphery, from the urban to the rural. In addition to an international conference in Berlin on November 21 and 22, the issue is addressed in a special issue of "Industry and Innovation" guest edited by Gernot Graber (University of the Built Environment and Metropolitan Development, Hamburg) and Oliver Ibert (IRS and Brandenburg University of Technology, Cottbus). more info

01. July | 2019

IRS has a new director. On June 24th, Brandenburg's minister of science, research and culture, Dr. Martina Münch, appointed the economic geographer Prof. Oliver Ibert to the professorship in Socio-Spatial Transformation at Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus-Senftenberg. This professorship and the position of IRS director are linked through a joint appointment by BTU and IRS. Ibert took office on July 1st. more info

08. May | 2019

Now, you can learn about research on society and space by listening online. On May 8th 2019, the new IRS podcast "Society@Space“ was launched with its first episode "Welcome to Nottingham, Malaysia“. In it, three internationally renowned guests of IRS, who did research on the globalisation of higher education, talk about their work: Sarah Hall (Nottingham, UK), Francis Collings (Waikato, New Zealand) amd Kris Olds (Madison, USA) were in Erkner in early January of 2019 following an invitation by Jana Kleibert (IRS) to coach three PhD students working in the Leibniz Junior Research Group TRANSEDU. more info

29. March | 2019

Coworking spaces, maker spaces and other kinds of ‘labs’ are typically seen as an urban phenomenon. Indeed, most of them are located in larger cities. However, they also exist in the countryside, and as an element in a comprehensive strategy, they could potentially help stabilizing rural areas suffering from demographic and economic decline. During an IRS seminar on March 19th 2019, Ignasi Capdevila from PSB Paris School of Business presented the case of a rural coworking initiative from the Spanish region of Catalonia. more info

19. November | 2018

On November 15th 2018, Dr. Jana Kleibert received the Regional Studies Association’s RSA Routledge Early Career Award in London. She received the award for her paper ‘Global Production Networks, Offshore Services and the Branch-Plant Syndrome’, published in 2016 in Regional Studies. more info

23. April | 2018
Social Entrepreneurship in Rural Regions

In a seminar held at the Leibniz Institute for Research on Society and Space (IRS) Dr. Richard Lang, Assistant Professor at the Institute for Innovation Management (IFI) at Johannes Kepler University Linz (JKU), introduced a multi-level model for social entrepreneurship in rural regions and their institutional environment. Lang developed the model together with Prof. Matthias Fink (IFI) referring to concepts rooted in regional and rural development, social entrepreneurship, innovation, social capital and network research. Empirical evidence comes from research in four marginalized rural regions in Europe in the context of the EU-funded project “RurInno”, in which the IRS and IFI are leading research partners. The seminar was part of the visiting fellowship Richard Lang has spent at the IRS between 16th and 20th of April, 2018. more info

12. April | 2018
Call for Papers for International Conference in September

Understanding the challenges associated with new energy landscapes and exploring potential solutions is the focus of the Energy Days 2018. The conference will foster the exchange between land-use-oriented energy research at the UFZ and the national and international scientific community. call for Papers for oral presentations with or without a conference paper is open until May 14, 2018. more info

01. March | 2018
Call for Sessions for International Conference in June, 2018

The transformation of energy systems has profound implications for the ways in which our societies are organized, and must therefore be understood as process of social change and social innovation. In many ways, energy systems structure our economies and mirror our attitudes and values regarding the definition of public goods, of justice, and of equity. The conference invites international scholars to discuss social innovations in the context of energy transitions, to reflect their meaning for educational and participatory practices, and to spark a debate about the societal values inherent in these innovations. A Call for Abstracts is open until March 15, 2018. more info

14. December | 2017

The European Union has launched numerous funding programmes to support small and medium-sized businesses including social enterprises. There are, however, big challenges for the entrepreneurs to benefit from these funding opportunities due to obligations to pre-finance parts of the expenses, due to a lack of compatibility of funding structures and entrepreneurial goals and procedures and due to knowledge deficits on funding opportunities. On November 30, 2017, a workshop jointly organized by the IRS-led EU project „RurInno“, „Brandenburg Invest“ (the business development agency of the Federal State of Brandenburg) and Enterprise Europe Network Berlin Brandenburg addressed these challenges. more info

24. November | 2017

After WW II, architecture was used and misused as an ideological signifier for competing systems and for new national identities. Diverse actors and networks took part in architectural exchange within the blocks and beyond the Iron Curtain. Different aid projects posed an attempt to overcome political and economic divides, but at the same time they were often considered as foreign imposition or neo-colonial practice. Tensions between commercial interests and solidarity arose. The conference investigates the multi-layered and multi-centred exchanges between the Global South and socialist as well as capitalist countries relation to architecture and constructing industry from an interdisciplinary perspective. The Call for Papers is open until December 20, 2017. more info

23. November | 2017
Call for Sessions for International Conference in June, 2018

The transformation of energy systems has profound implications for the ways in which our societies are organized, and must therefore be understood as process of social change and social innovation. In many ways, energy systems structure our economies and mirror our attitudes and values regarding the definition of public goods, of justice, and of equity. The conference invites international scholars to discuss social innovations in the context of energy transitions, to reflect their meaning for educational and participatory practices, and to spark a debate about the societal values inherent in these innovations. A Call for Sessions is open until December 7, 2017. more info

13. November | 2017
Acclaimed scholars and junior researchers at the IRS Spring Academy 2017

Between May 2nd and 5th 2017, the IRS and Technische Universität Berlin jointly hosted the first “IRS Spring Academy: Investigating Space(s): Current Theoretical and Methodological Approaches”. Over the course of four days, 26 German and international junior researchers with backgrounds in geography, political science, history and sociology came together to explore novel theoretical concepts and methods in spatial research. In particular, this year's Spring Academy focused on the interrelation between time and space. The junior researchers were joined by leading scholars to discuss theories and methods of spatial research that reflect on variegated aspects of temporality – whether conceptualised as models of spatial processes, or as social constructs of standardised time. The event also provided a platform for IRS scholars to present, modify and further advance their ongoing research on spatio-temporal dynamics. more info

25. October | 2017
Call for Paper for a Special Issue of "Spatial Research and Planning"

The meaning of ‘planning’ or ‘to plan’ has undergone a continuous and contradictory process of transition and adjustment to changing context conditions. Complex changes such as migration, climate change, political crises and economic recessions now coincide in our cities in an unprecedented manner. At the same time, cities should be seen not only as spaces of transition, but – from a procedural planning perspective – as places for converting these challenges into good living conditions for all their citizens. Current demands on the design and conduct of planning processes and their goals for spatial developments exceed established planning conceptions. The aim of this special issue is to collect and open the discussion about recent approaches, positions and reflections on planning as a space- and action-oriented discipline. more info

11. October | 2017

On December 4 and December 5, 2017, the IRS-coordinated European Training Network "RurAction" helds the International Conference "Challenges and Opportunities of Structurally Weak Rural Regions in Europe. Social Innovations and Social Enterprises Acting Under Adverse Circumstances". The Conference marks the start of the project research and takes place at Adam Mickiewicz Universität Poznan (Poland). Abstracts of possible contributions can be submitted until October 30, 2017. more info

08. September | 2017

On September 30, 2017, the Editors of the Journal "Raumforschung und Raumordnung/Spatial Research and Planning" invite colleages and guest to a Journal Lecture that takes place as a part of the this year’s German Congress of Geography in Tübingen. more info

13. July | 2017

Prof. Dr. Suntje Schmidt is a member of the newly formed DFG network “Temporary Organizing under Tension: Between Stability and Change”. The scientific network was initiated by Prof. Dr. Timo Braun, Junior Professor for Project Management at Freie Universität Berlin. It is formed by twelve German early career researchers and is also supported by internationally renowned senior researchers. The network was inaugurated with the first of a series of four intensive workshops from July 10 to 12 in Berlin. Upcoming workshops will be held in Cologne, Tilburg and Berlin. The aim of these meetings is to initiate joint interdisciplinary projects on the topic (e.g. publishing of an anthology, preparation for collective sessions). more info

29. June | 2017
Round Table Discussion with Ludger Gailing at Durham Energy Institute

On May 26th 2017 Dr. Ludger Gailing presented and discussed his paper on “old” and “new” energy spaces at Durham Energy Institute (DEI). Lead by Prof. Gavin Bridge (Department of Geography at Durham University) the round table discussion attracted renowned scholars such as Prof. Harriet Bulkeley and Prof. Simone Abram who contributed to the event as discussants. more info

15. June | 2017

The IRS' internationalisation strategy exhibits a distinct geographical focus. This is driven by the conviction that such a focus allows scholars to pursue in-depth research on matters pertaining to these regions, and to establish productive and lasting relationships with other scholars and academic institutions. The IRS has concentrated its internationalisation efforts on North America, Scandinavia and Poland. Variegated ties to the latter country were established twenty years ago and have been intensified in the context of the IRS' internationalisation strategy and through on-going collaborative research projects. more info

26. May | 2017

There is a need on various governance levels to meet the challenges that structurally weak rural regions face. In addition to local and regional actors representatives of the national and European level have to address specific problems like the lack of specialized workers, social exclusion, poverty, financial limitations and crumbling infrastructure. The RurInno researchers and practitioners discussed the possible impact of social entrepreneurs in this matter with representatives of regional and rural policy on the European level on the occasion of the Policy Round Table “Social Entrepreneurship as Driver of Change in Marginalised Rural Europe” on May 23, 2017, in Brussels. more info

09. March | 2017

From April 14 to June 30, 2017, Dr. Ludger Gailing (prov. head of the IRS Research Department "Institutional Change and Regional Public Goods") will conduct research at the Durham Energy Institute and the Department of Geography at Durham University. This stay abroad is made possible by a "senior research fellowship" of the University, which is supported within the COFUND-scheme of the European Commission (Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions). The stay in Durham is part of Gailing's habilitation project "Reconfiguring Energy Spaces: The Role of Spatial Governmentalities and Competing Socio-Materialities" at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. more info

01. March | 2017

In December 2016, the IRS started the European Training Network “Social Entrepreneurship in Structurally Weak Rural Regions: Analysing Innovative Troubleshooters in Action” (RurAction). With the recruitment process for the Early Stage Researchers on the way, the project launched its website in late February. For the coming three-and-a-half years, it will serve as the main hub for information on the project, its researchers, topics and outcomes. more info

01. February | 2017

The European Training Network RurAction (“Social Entrepreneurship in Structurally Weak Rural Regions: Analysing Innovative Troubleshooters in Action”) announces 10 positions for Early-Stage Researchers with the option of awarding the doctoral degree. The positions last 36 months and are expected to begin between September and November 2017. more info

23. January | 2017

Changes in the production of goods, in consumption patterns and transportation are forcing urban quarters to adapt. In recent times, there has been a significant rise in the quantity of goods ordered and delivered. Increasingly, groceries for immediate consumption are also being ordered and delivered, alongside other more common products. The resultant rise in the quantity of transported goods, and the emergence of an intricate delivery network, poses a major challenge for cities: as ever more delivery vehicles navigate city streets, pollution and traffic congestion increase, while traffic accidents become more likely. Germany's Federal Ministry of Education and Research has launched the 'Urban quarter 4.0' (Stadtquartier 4.0) research project to identify and experiment with solutions to the above mentioned challenges. more info

14. October | 2016

Crises rarely occur in isolation from one another. Only by using this dictum one can grasp what can be witnessed today: a growing number of increasingly interconnected crises. Recurring financial and economic crises, municipalities and counties burdened by austerity measures, the effects of demographic and climate change, global migration flows, and increasingly polarised societies mean that cities and regions in particular face great challenges. more info

13. October | 2016

In August 1876, Richard Wagner's opera cycle “The Ring of the Nibelung” premiered at the Bayreuth Festival Theatre. The epochal music drama draws on a number of myths and legends. Apart from Siegfried, Brunhilde, Hagen, and Etzel, a river plays a pivotal role: the Rhine, where the legendary Rhine gold starts off the narrative. Coincidentally, the year 1876 is an important year for river Rhine in an entirely different context, too. The year in which the “Ring Cycle” premiered also marks the conclusion of one of the largest landscape construction projects in recent European history. From 1817 and 1876, the Upper Rhine was shortened by 80 kilometres (!) between Basel and Mannheim. more info

15. September | 2016

The Leibniz Institute for Research on Society and Space (IRS) in Erkner near Berlin has successfully applied for a research and training network in the highly competetive „Marie-Skłodowska-Curie“ programme of the European Union. Twelve research institutes and social enterprises from seven European countries, coordinated by the IRS, will offer a structured doctoral training on social entrepreneurship in structurally weak rural regions. The doctoral candidates will conduct research guided by the question of which innovative solutions the social entrepreneurs can offer to tackle the economic and social downward spirals in these regions. The project will run for four years and has a budget of 2.5 million Euros. more info

16. March | 2015

Anyone who experiments is suspending the conventional conditions for a certain period and looking for explanations outside the patterns that are already known to us. Across all sciences and contexts, it would appear that the defining characteristics of an experiment are the fact that it is new, and that it is temporary. Based on a current IRS research project on temporary use, Thomas Honeck and Jan Zwilling discuss what an experiment in the urban context can look like, and what significance the desire to innovate and time limits have. more info

New Publications

16. July | 2019

Recently, the federal commission on “Equal Living Conditions” reported considerable regional inequalities in Germany. Rural regions, in particular, suffer from poor education and employment opportunities, lower incomes and shortages in the provision of public and private services. These observations, however, are not specific for Germany. Many rural regions across Europe face challenges such as a lack of medical practices, village shops, schools and public service provision. In this situation, expectations rest on a relatively new type of organization: social enterprises. A new book explores the role of social enterprises in rural spaces. more info

22. March | 2018
Paper on Social Entrepreneurs in the "Journal of Rural Studies"

Despite the fact that social enterprises are commonly associated with the ability to identify and establish innovative solutions in rural regions, there are significant research gaps concerning what exactly is innovative about their practice and which special characteristic of their entrepreneurial activities enables them to find these innovative solutions. Based on research conducted in the EU-funded project "RurInno", Dr. Ralph Richter addressed these gabs in a paper recently published in the "Journal of Rural Studies" more info

11. May | 2017
Article released in "European Urban and Regional Studies"

Innovation is considered an important asset for economic growth. This is why the stimulation of innovation processes has been a core strategy for regional development policies for a long time. These policies have been relying on cluster-based approaches and by that on the spatial proximity of actors involved in innovation processes. As a result of year-long research on spatial and temporal aspects of innovation processes researchers of the IRS Research Department “Dynamics of Economic Spaces” developed a new approach called “Open Region” which accounts for – among other aspects – the high mobility of ideas and innovations. In a recently published article in “European Urban and Regional Studies” the concept is explained in detail. more info

27. November | 2016

Ways of handling climate change vary worldwide. Differences can be observed in the perception of potential threats and opportunities as well as in the appraisal of adequate coping strategies. Collective efforts often fail not because of technical restrictions, but owing to social and cultural differences between agents involved. Consequently, there is a need to explore in greater depth those "zones of cultural friction” which emerge when agents deal with climate change. This book exermines, what kinds of “climate cultures” can be observed within European Coastal Areas and what the discriminants of different “climate cultures” are and/or how different climate cultures be can explained? more info

02. November | 2016

During the past decade we could observe the vast creation of open spaces dedicated to tinkering, experimentation, creative and freelance work as well as entrepreneurship primarily in Western, industrialized economies but also beyond. The scene of operators and users of such places typically refer affirmatively to a community culture in which manufacturing tools and digital technologies are flexibly accessible and knowledge and expertise are shared collaboratively among peers. This broschure, originating from a third-party funded research project by the same name, provides a detailed view of Germany's lab scene, a typology of the labs and insights into the conditions of their formation, development and allocation. more info

Weitere Publikationen

Podcast Society@Space

Episode 1: Welcome to Nottingham, Malaysia

Geographers Francis Collins, Sarah Hall and Kris Olds discuss the globalization of higher education, the reasons for universities to branch out internationally and future perspectives on university internationalization in this pilot episode of the new IRS podcast Society@Space.