How can technologies be a key driver for sustainable development?

How do we acquire interdisciplinary competencies for the future?

How does open education strengthen individual competencies related to sustainable development?

Why is that relevant?

Innovative open education for a sustainable future

New technologies can make a decisive contribution to sustainable development. In the collaborative project “Open T-Shape for Sustainable Development” of TU Hamburg and HafenCity University, open learning opportunities are being developed to promote interdisciplinary action competencies for achieving the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

A consequence of rapid, technical development is that technical studies are becoming increasingly specialized. At the same time, learners have a growing need for interdisciplinary competencies to address global challenges such as the climate crisis, famines, or the protection of animals and the environment. Educational institutions such as universities have a responsibility to offer flexible learning opportunities. Cross-university, open and digitally accessible offerings based on the example of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals can make a decisive contribution here. The correct use of modern technologies is of crucial importance and an essential factor for overall sustainable development.

What could this look like?

Developing multidisciplinary
future competencies

Universities are challenged to integrate a suitable balance of standardized knowledge and content related to ongoing developments into their curricula. In addition, students as well as practitioners from industry expect the promotion of so-called future skills, which include collaborative working, entrepreneurial thinking, agile working methods, and data skills, but also lifelong learning opportunities.

Due to the fast developments, driven by digitalization and disruptive changes, the professional requirements – especially for technically oriented courses of study – are increasing and the need for interdisciplinary competencies based on flexible learning opportunities is constantly growing.  At the same time, it becomes clear that many of the global challenges can be traced back to a unreflective use of technology.

Therefore, it is necessary to implement further content targeting global sustainable development, especially in technical studies. Learners need to be enabled to critically reflect on technological innovations with special emphasis on their impact on people and the environment, and in doing so to start generating innovative approaches to solutions that contribute meaningfully to sustainable development.

Innovative didactical approach

The joint project “Open T-Shape for Sustainable Development” supplements existing specialized university curricula with an additional offering in the form of a T-Shape. Unlike many Honors-programs, participation in the T-Shape offerings is not tied to previous outstanding academic performance, but solely to the interest and motivation of the learners. Accordingly, the T-Shape model allows an interdisciplinary addition (top cross-stroke of the “T”) to a disciplinary course of study (base of the “T”).

»Technologies for Sustainable Development«

as an open T-Shape offering

The universities involved in the project application, TU Hamburg and HafenCity University, are developing the T-Shape supplementary offering “Technologies for Sustainable Development” from their specialist and didactical expertise. During the project, other university and non-university partners can contribute their own content or use the existing learning offerings for their own ambitions. The individual learning modules of the T-Shape concept can also be used by other universities via recognition documents. In the future, the open T-Shape concept will enable a broad participation of different universities.

The innovative strength of the collaborative project on five levels

An open T-Shape
model to promote
flexible curricular structures
at various universities.

The opportunity to engage beyond common curriculars to gain competencies focusing global sustainable development to increase learners’ motivation and engagement.

Open digital access to OER content also enables new target groups, such as interested professionals or prospective students, to participate in academic learning content.

Through the CBS and DBS certificate models, universities can provide qualified additional offerings to learners.

Establishment of a strong network with other universities and linkage with the learning offerings of the Hamburg Open Online University (HOOU).

Innovative and sustainable technologies in a coffee length

First insights into technologies as drivers for sustainable development

Prof. Dr. Sönke Knutzen in conversation with Prof. Dr.-Ing. habil. Marcus Rutner (both TU Hamburg) on nanolaminate for bridges

Partners & sponsors


ITBH at the TU Hamburg

The Hamburg University of Technology (TU Hamburg) is a university with a clear profile in research and stands for practice-oriented learning methods. The aim of the TU Hamburg is to educate creative minds under the motto ``Technology for People``, who have an individual professional profile and high social competence. To this end, scientists develop and research basic principles and applications in cooperation with partners from industry and society. The Institute for Technical Education and University Didactics (ITBH) at the TU Hamburg, headed by Prof. Dr. Sönke Knutzen, has been implementing research and development projects in the field of new educational technologies such as the Hamburg Open Online University and the digital.learning.lab since many years.


HafenCity University Hamburg

HafenCity University Hamburg - University of Architecture and Metropolitan Development (HCU) - focuses teaching and research on the future of metropolises. This requires the systematic crossing of disciplinary boundaries. HCU therefore offers the full range of disciplines related to the understanding and design of the urban environment. In order to truly harness the opportunities that arise from the establishment of such a specialized university, HCU has begun a public debate on the pressing issues of development, design and the future of our world. In this way, HCU aims to develop new approaches to solving the challenges facing our cities in the 21st century.



The project is funded under the funding line ``Strengthening University Teaching through Digitization`` of the “Stiftung Innovation in der Hochschullehre”. Further thinking, testing and structurally anchoring classroom teaching, blended learning and online teaching in an innovative way, the foundation has been funding forward-looking project projects since August 1, 2021.

Upcoming steps to make the platform a reality

How to participate?

Feel free to contact us

We from the joint project “Open T-Shape for Sustainable Development” have great plans. We are looking forward to discussing the possibilities for collaboration and cooperation that can be identified with you. Are you interested in contributing digital learning offerings on topics of technology and sustainability? Would you like to use learning opportunities on sustainable technologies? Would you like to discuss further questions about innovative teaching and learning scenarios for the acquisition of future competencies with us?

We look forward to hearing from you.

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