Sustainability-oriented research

Goal by 2023

BFH conducts interdepartmental, transformative research which aims to have a societal impact in the three thematic priorities defined in the Sustainable Development Goal Statement.

Why this topic is relevant for BFH

With its research, BFH has a great deal of leverage to achieve social impact. Thanks to its diverse research areas, it can contribute significantly to shaping a more sustainable society. Through sustainability-oriented research, it can make innovative contributions to the future shaping of society, the environment, and the economy. Thanks to its practice- and use-oriented approach, knowledge transfer and application in practice are also ensured. Insufficient consideration of social responsibility in research can lead to the continuation and further development of current non-sustainable practices or to innovations that favour a contrary development.

BFH research for the achievement of the SDGs

BFH intends to intensify further the potential of inter- and trans-disciplinary research in the years to come. In 2021, it revised its strategy, in which it stipulated the consistent consideration and institutional anchoring of the principles of sustainable development in research.

The Sustainable Development Goal identifies sustainability-oriented research as the first field of action and defines three thematic priorities for interdepartmental research:

In 2021, there were 588 active research projects with third-party funding of more than CHF 50,000. If all research projects are taken into account, including those with a smaller share of third-party funding, interdepartmental cooperation is shown for 64 projects and a sustainability reference for 148 projects. However, the latter is not yet fully recorded in the research database.

Example of a research project: Circular Economy in Swiss Companies (in German)

Ten interdepartmental research projects on social innovations

In 2021, the Call for Proposals was held on the topic of social innovation for sustainability. Ten projects were selected from 19 submitted proposals and funded with a volume of around CHF 750,000. All ten projects are interdepartmental and promote interdisciplinary work at BFH through increased cooperation.

New research institute at BFH-HAFL

The Hugo P. Cecchini Institute promotes the development of sustainability in smallholder farms, forestry and food systems in developing and emerging countries. As a centre of excellence, the institute brings together the international work of staff and students from all divisions of BFH-HAFL together with numerous external partners from the private sector, public institutions and NGOs.

How BFH addresses this topic

Sustainability-oriented research is not practised at BFH as a discipline in its own right, but as a research field in the sense of a cross-cutting theme. To date, however, it has not been explicitly promoted, centrally coordinated or strategically managed by BFH.

Various departmental research priorities are highly relevant to sustainability, such as the circular economy, energy storage, social innovation, nutrition, wood, agriculture and forestry, mobility, entrepreneurship, digitalisation, poverty and social issues, and corporate responsibility. Some individual departments have made further progress in the area of sustainability-oriented research. BFH-HAFL for example, is gearing its research towards comprehensive sustainable development.

In order to enable the transformation process towards sustainable development, inter- and trans-disciplinary research is also indispensable. Interdepartmental research is practised in all departments and has been actively promoted by BFH since 2007; for example, through the three BFH centres, Energy storage, Wood – Resource and Material, Health Technologies, all of which have an explicit sustainability focus.

Research projects are underway at BFH with companies that are active in non-sustainable industries or have a rather poor reputation in terms of sustainable development. By consistently taking into account its values and its understanding of sustainability, BFH can also use such partnerships to exert a positive influence on the activities of not-yet-sustainable companies, through innovative solutions.

In September 2022, the Office for Sustainable Development will be transferred to the strategic thematic field of sustainable development. The resulting better anchoring and networking, as well as strategic management, can specifically promote interdepartmental, sustainability-oriented research in the three defined priority areas of sustainable food systems, development of settlements and living spaces, and the circular economy and decarbonization. A committee of the BFH management will assume responsibility for this strategic thematic field in the future.

The BFH records its research activities via its own research database RIS. This contains all research projects with a volume of CHF 50,000 or more, as well as their link to the SDGs and interdepartmental collaborations. This allows to document the proportion of research related to sustainable development  and of an interdepartmental nature .