Research Training Group ‘Critical Infrastructures’

The Research Training Group ‘Critical infrastructures: construction, functional crises and protection in cities’ at the Technical University of Darmstadt began its research activities, initially planned for a period of four and a half years, on 1 October 2016. In the College, which is sponsored by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation), historians, infrastructure and land use planners, civil engineers, philosophers, political scientists, architects and IT specialists work together.

Critical infrastructures and the functionality of cities

The Research Training Group conducts research into critical infrastructures (CI) in cities: the functioning of cities is highly dependent on technical systems e.g. the provision of water and electricity, waste management, communication and transport, which are regarded as the ‘nervous system’ of modern cities. Breakdowns and malfunctions can be troublesome and even lead to dramatic crises that can be life-threatening to city dwellers. The increasing vulnerability of modern (urban) societies is usually believed to have various causes: on the one hand, in recent years external threats from natural catastrophes, terrorist attacks and cyberattacks have come into focus; on the other, risks also result from the increasing complexity and interdependency of the systems.

Interdisciplinary CI research

The Research Training Group at the TU Darmstadt, with eleven professors from five different faculties, will contribute to the still fragmentary basic research on critical infrastructure. The intention is to understand and explain infrastructure systems (and their disruption) in their spatial and temporal contexts. At the same time the participating scholars from the humanities, the social sciences and engineering will attempt to find answers as to how the prevention of functional disruptions and preparedness for functional crises can be organised.

In the Research Training Group, doctoral candidates will work on their individual theses together with, and under the supervision of, several professors and other associated scientists. Their theses are related to one another through the principal theme of the group and through similar approaches. One particular feature of the Research Training Group is its close cooperation with partners from practice and its collaboration with four renowned research institutes in other European countries.