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The Institute ISP - a portrait

Welcome to the ISP - Institute for Urban Research, Planning and Communication website. We have set ourselves the goal of accompanying sustainable transformation processes in cities and neighbourhoods - together with the actors, with an integrated approach and transdisciplinary manner. Our work is based on many years of research experience that extends beyond the founding year 2008. In the ISP team, scientists from various disciplines work together on municipal issues under the direction of Prof. Dr.-Ing. Heidi Sinning. We cooperate closely with the Urban and Spatial Planning degree programme at the University of Applied Sciences Erfurt as well as with partners from science and practice in Germany and abroad.

Urban transformation

The most important tasks and research focuses of the Institute include complex inter- and transdisciplinary challenges of urban transformation processes. The focus is on actor perspectives, governance issues and (cross-media) participation, as well as future issues and innovations on topics such as housing and neighbourhoods, climate protection and climate adaptation, urban health, land justice and the integration of disadvantaged population groups.


Wide range of methods

From stakeholder and governance analyses to resident surveys (online and offline), expert interviews and evaluations to real-lab approaches and interventions in space: in our transformative research projects, we focus specifically on the needs of cities and neighbourhoods. To this end, we use a broad spectrum of methods.

Guiding principle of sustainability

The ISP is shaped by the guiding principle of sustainability, which brings together economic, ecological, social and cultural aspects in an integrated understanding of tasks and a cross-generational perspective. We take into account the effects of urban transformations on social developments and planning processes, with challenges such as climate change, digitalisation, demography, good governance and administrative modernisation at the centre of our research.

ISP-Main research areas

The work of the ISP focuses on four main areas, which are embedded differently in the respective research projects depending on their weighting:

  • Social and socio-economic change as well as current challenges, such as climate resilience, communal forms of living and sharing approaches, sustainable settlement development and land justice, are changing the demands on the housing industry and urban development.

    A targeted orientation towards demand and user groups is becoming increasingly important for the design of sustainable housing offers and neighbourhoods. In this context, the growing proportion of older people, low-income households, households with children and young people as well as migrants have to be given special consideration. In this research focus, we consider the term "housing" comprehensively and include the dwelling, the building, the living environment as well as the infrastructure and services offered in the neighbourhood.

  • The guiding principle of sustainability puts settlement and open space development in a different light. It is about the integration of social, ecological, economic and cultural concerns. The complex task is to optimally coordinate the various demands for use on the limited space available.

    The starting point of the ISP is the economical use of land. Solution strategies aim, for example, at the combination of "protection and use", as made possible by ecologically oriented settlement development or "double internal development", i.e. the reclamation of open spaces within cities.

  • Climate change mitigation and adaptation are key components of a strategy to deal with the impacts of climate change. While climate change mitigation activities contribute to reducing emissions, climate adaptation measures help to reduce the negative impacts of climate change. They are thus an integral part of a municipal sustainability and resilience strategy.

    Whether more efficient management of administrative processes, project development and implementation of the associated coordination and steering processes between public and private actors: this thematic field encompasses a wide variety of strategies and measures to establish comprehensive strategic steering approaches in municipal climate change mitigation and adaptation management and to overcome existing barriers to implementation.

  • The understanding of governance and communicative planning implies an expanded understanding of steering, which turns away from the classical "top-down" principle. According to this, private actors gain importance as partners of the public sector. It is a regulated, yet flexible form of cooperative policy that brings together actors from the state (including municipalities), business and civil society.

    In this context, communicative planning instruments encompass a broad spectrum of analogue and digital forms and procedures that serve the "communication and mediation work" of the various actors in planning processes and range from information to participation to cooperation.