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1.5 million euros in funding for the Institute for Water and Energy Management

Since October 2020, Prof. Günter Müller-Czygan has been Endowed Professor for Water Infrastructure at the Institute for Water and Energy Management (iwe) at Hof University of Applied Sciences. Born in Meschede (Sauerland), he studied civil engineering at the University of Kassel and completed his master’s degree in business psychology at the FOM Hochschule für Oekonomie & Management gemeinnützige Gesellschaft mbH in Münster. He also has a wide-ranging professional background. Among other things, he worked as an independent engineer for urban water management and as a project manager and funding consultant for various companies in the water and utilities industry. For 1.5 years now, he has headed the Water Infrastructure and Digitization Research Group at Hof University of Applied Sciences, during which time he has brought the iwe millions in funding.

Prof. Günter Müller-Czygan (Endowed Professor of Water Infrastructure, Head of the Water Infrastructure and Digitization Research Group; Image: Hof University of Applied Sciences;

You have been an endowed professor at Hof University of Applied Sciences for 16 months. What tasks and responsibilities does this entail in particular?

“The focus of the endowed professorship is the area of water infrastructure. This essentially involves drinking water supply systems and wastewater distribution systems, including connections to sewage treatment plants. Both water sectors are facing particular challenges, especially against the backdrop of climate change, particularly as a result of the increasing weather extremes of heavy rainfall and dry periods. One key topic here is digitization, which the water industry also hopes will provide new and effective solutions for overcoming these challenges. That’s why I founded the Water Infrastructure and Digitization Research Group, which currently has two female employees working on individual research topics in this field.”

What interim balance can you draw today?

“For me personally, I can say that I have arrived at Hof and feel very comfortable. The focal points have been set correctly, as many conversations with colleagues, municipalities and funding agencies have shown. The high number of funding decisions that have been issued in the meantime, which mean a total of around 1.5 million euros in funding for the iwe, also confirm the right choice of topics and focus. In addition, I can integrate individual aspects of these funding projects into teaching, especially in the new master’s program in Sustainable Water Management and Engineering, but also in the bachelor’s program in Environmental Engineering. Thanks to the numerous funding projects, I will be able to expand my team with several new staff members in the coming months.”

Where are your thematic focuses at the moment, where exactly does the funding money go?

“All of the funding projects can be assigned to the aforementioned bracket of water infrastructure and digitization. Two major projects in particular stand out, accounting for about two-thirds of the funding. One project involves the development of a certified continuing education course on the topic of sponge cities, i.e., the presentation and discussion of different solutions for dealing with extreme weather events in cities and urban areas. Among other things, this involves the use of existing sewer storage areas for stormwater retention, better infiltration or use of stormwater, or microclimate improvement through green roofs or building façade greening. In the other major project, we are researching in a consortium with scientific partners, industrial companies and the city of Jena how an intelligent sewer network of the future must be equipped and controlled with digitalization. The other projects deal more broadly with further education, the reuse of wastewater, the retention of precipitation in small communities and the data processing of modern precipitation measurement systems. In addition, we will soon be able to put an experimental container into operation that will allow us to investigate modern cyber-physical systems for retaining pollutants in the sewer, which are used when the sewer overflows due to too much rainwater when it is full

This container is also supported with financial means from the Upper Franconia Foundation, which, along with the Rainer Marktgraf Foundation, the Association for Construction Research and Vocational Training of the Bavarian Construction Industry Association, and the KSB Foundation, will finance my professorship for the next almost 5 years.”

Prof. Günter Müller-Czygan

Further funding decisions have already been received this year, so two new projects are already in the starting blocks. What can you tell us about them?

“At the turn of the year, we were already pleased to receive our first funding decisions for 2022. One project, funded by the Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt (German Federal Foundation for the Environment), involves the development and evaluation of a new training series on digitization in municipal water management that is conducive to learning. The other project is the already presented project with the city of Jena to develop a modern and digital-based sewer network management for a large city.”

What goals are you pursuing with these two projects

“In the first project, the result is a certificate course to become a digitization expert in water management, which does not yet exist in this form. Results from our WaterExe4.0 meta-study on the status of digitization in the water industry, which was funded by the German Federal Ministry of Research, confirm the need for such a certificate course. In the second project, the results of the real-life trials in Jena will be used, among other things, to create a kind of guide so that medium-sized and small towns also know how to follow a similar path to digitizing the sewer network as the one being developed for the city of Jena in our consortium.”

What do you wish for the future – as an endowed professor, but also for future projects at Hof University of Applied Sciences?

“At this point, I would like to take the opportunity to once again express my sincere thanks to the founders and, of course, to the appointment committee and the university management for appointing me to this position and for the trust they have placed in me as a person. I wish that my team will continue to grow and that I can continue to attract such wonderful and valuable people as it has been the case so far. Furthermore, I hope for a continuity of the good cooperation in the faculty and in the iwe with my colleagues. We water scientists here in Hof have found that we are currently among the few water researchers in the world who, especially in matters of digitization and sustainability, have been able to look intensively at the role of people in relation to technical solutions and determine their importance for digitization and sustainability success in our projects. This is where we want to pick up and address research topics more strongly in cooperation with the research group Sustainability and Project Management in Water Management of colleague Prof.- Dr. Manuela Wimmer and expand our research here. For example, starting this fall, we will publish an annual report on digitization in the water industry together with our colleague Wimmer in the joint DigiNaX project, which will not only show which technologies exist in German-speaking countries. The results of supplementary surveys will also show us whether people are adequately involved in these processes or what users of digitization solutions in the water industry want from science and industry. In addition, we will also address the issue of sustainability. I also see great funding potential for technical digitization topics in the coming years. In general, I would like to see the socio-technical aspect with people in the focus of digitization addressed more strongly in funding programs and funding topics of the federal and state governments or other funding agencies. This aspect will generally be the subject of investigation in our digitization projects, more or less intensively depending on the project focus. With the different topics we address at iwe, I see us well positioned for the future and thus this endowed professorship has also found its place.”

Thank you and all the best for the future.

Logo of the Water Infrastructure and Digitalization Research Group; Source: Hof University of Applied Sciences;

Franziska Brömel

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