• © Thomas Deutschmann

Heat pumps way out of gas dependence

Borderstep co-founder Dr. Jens Clausen is co-author of a study on heat pumps presented by ScientistsForFuture just in time for the global climate strike. It shows in a model calculation that Germany can find a quick way out of gas dependency with this technology.

Modern heat pumps are technically mature and can be installed directly in the majority of buildings within about three days without major modifications. This saves time and, above all, costs. (Jens Clausen)

Just in time for today’s global climate strike, an analysis on the supply of heat by gas appears in the scientific magazine “Nature Communications Earth & Environment”. The study proves that replacing gas heating systems with heat pumps reduces gas consumption the fastest. An interdisciplinary team of scientists from Scientist for Future (S4F) have shown in a detailed model calculation that Germany can reduce in only three years up to 60% of the gas volume that was previously covered by Russian gas.

Problem Skills shortage

The team has calculated a viable change in heat supply and, for the first time, also relied on interviews in craft enterprises. The first problem to arise is the shortage of skilled workers. The 380,000 employees in German plumbing and heating companies install about one million heaters each year, an average of only about three heaters per employee per year. But: out of 50,000 companies, only 10 to 20 % regularly install heat pumps. An important control variable is therefore the approximately 5-day and obligatory further training for craftsmen, so that they can install the heat pumps.

According to the study, a prerequisite for the necessary speedy installation of heat pumps is the cooperation between the government, specialist companies and customers, which has already begun. The main author of the S4F study is Dr. Pietro Altermatt, head of the international energy modeling group “gpvsim”, Hannover. Political indecision is delaying climate protection, he said.

With heat pumps, we can use the virtually unlimited heat potential of the outside air instead of burning limited and expensive gas reserves. The companies need political planning security for this. (Pietro Altermatt)

He is supported by S4F member and co-author Prof. Dr. Claudia Kemfert from the German Institute for Economic Research.

A greatly accelerated replacement of gas boilers with heat pumps is also the right economic response to the energy crisis. We will continue to be financially burdened by fluctuating gas prices in the future.” In addition, he said, the switch offers a realistic solution “for the German government to do without long-term gas supply contracts, because these undermine the Paris climate agreement. (Claudia Kemfert)

Heat supply core energy issue

For private households, heat supply is the core energy issue. The detailed calculations of the S4F research team are based on the current state of thermal insulation in existing buildings. Radiators are also expected to remain installed in most buildings.

The critical point remains the energy issue: heat pumps need electricity and are only climate-neutral if this electricity is green. Therefore, heat pumps are in competition with other users for sustainably generated electricity. However, the study’s calculations show that despite heat pumps, enough renewable electricity remains available to continue phasing out coal and moving into e-mobility. Although some gas-fired power plants will supply electricity for heat pumps on some dark, windless days in winter, the switch will avoid gas-related emissions of more than 180 million tons of CO2 by 2025, according to the calculations.

Although the model analysis examined Germany, it is methodologically transferable to other countries.

Article published in Nature

The paper can be found at Nature Communications Earth & Environment at: Pietro Altermatt et al. (2023). „Replacing gas boilers with heat pumps is the fastest way to cut German gas consumption“.

Borderstep supports EU Commission on the topic of data centers

Borderstep supports EU Commission on the topic of data centers: In the DCESS project for the European Commission, Borderstep, together with VVA Brüssel, AIT Austrian Institute of Technology, Prof. Catherine Banet and RP Legal & Tax, is investigating the environmental impact of data centers in close cooperation with the Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technologies (CNECT). How can data centers be more effectively integrated with energy networks?

The DCESS-project is an important step towards achieving the goals of the Green Deal and the EU Commission’s Digital Decade. This is intended to drive the digital transformation of the European Union. Among other things, data centers are to become energy-efficient and climate-neutral by 2030.

Smart City: How can development be managed?

In a recent article for the Israel Public Policy Institute, Borderstep co-founder and senior researcher Dr. Severin Beucker looks at the state of the debate on the topic of Smart City in Germany. Ambitious technical visions dominated the projects.

For example, projects dealt with the use of networked sensors and applications such as motion and traffic control cameras. The collection of data on energy and water consumption in buildings to improve municipal services and utilities was also in demand. In the process, the individual benefits for people often came up short in the subjective perception; fears of data misuse dominated the debate for this reason as well.

Overview of smart city solutions in Germany

How has this situation changed? What role do the profit interests of companies play in this? Which pilot projects for the smart city have been successful? How are cities such as Berlin positioning themselves? How does this work in the interaction of the players? Severin Beucker sheds light on concrete examples from various sectors and regions.

The article can be read free of charge.

The Israel Public Policy Institute (IPPI) is an independent non-profit think and do tank based in Tel Aviv with representations in Berlin and New York. With our global network of experts and partners, we strive to foster fresh thinking on how to tackle some of the most pressing policy challenges of the 21st century from within an international and interdisciplinary perspective.

  • © jordan mcqueen - unsplash

How big is the greenhouse gas footprint of ICT?

How big is the greenhouse gas footprint of information and communications technology? Which effects does the information and communication technology sector have on greenhouse gas emissions? Borderstep Institute senior researchers Dr. Severin Beucker and Dr. Ralph Hintemann co-authored an article in the journal Environmental Impact Assessment Review.

The text systematically compares relevant studies from the last ten years and discuss the robustness of results in view of the methods used. The paper is based on the project “Climate protection through digital technology” conducted by the University of Zurich and the Borderstep Institute on behalf of Germany’s digital association Bitkom.

The comparison of different studies shows that:

  • The information and communication technology sectors accounts for around 1.5% to 4% of the global greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The production of end-user devices accounts for most of the greenhouse gas emissions.
  • ICT applications have great theoretical potential for avoiding GHG emissions.
  • Most studies do not consider rebound effects; it remains open how the potentials can be realized in real-life setting.

More information on the project (in German) you find here.

Author team
Dr. Jan C.T. Bieser I University of Zurich; Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute
Dr. Ralph Hintemann I Borderstep Institute
Prof. Dr. Lorenz M. Hilty I University of Zurich
Dr. Severin Beucker I Borderstep Institute

The article can be accessed free of charge

Founder platform: Borderstep develops “green” offer

The issue of sustainability is becoming increasingly important in the development of new business ideas and models. In order to support those interested in founding a business in dealing with climate protection and other sustainability aspects at an early stage, the founder platform is further developing its knowledge and consulting services. Borderstep supports the development of the offering specifically for green start-ups.

The founder platform aims to make it easier to start a business and encourage more people to do so. The free, digital service is designed to guide founders step by step through the start-up process. And help them navigate through information and funding opportunities in an organized manner. The platform is a service of the Federal Ministry of Economics and Climate Protection (BMWK) and KfW Bankengruppe.

As part of its collaboration with the founder platform, Borderstep is designing new knowledge offerings, guides and learning formats specifically on the topic of green startups. Additional support and consulting formats offer personal and individual support to develop green ideas and business models.

In this way, founders should be enabled to develop their projects sustainably by means of new knowledge and competencies. And to create a positive ecological and social impact using entrepreneurial methods.

Offers for green start-ups on the founder platform

  • Green startup – online seminar
    In this start-up seminar, people interested in starting a business will learn how to successfully become an Ecopreneur and start a green business. The free seminar consists of 5 modules with 18 lessons.
  • The green start-up café
    In the green start-up café, people interested in starting a business meet online in a relaxed atmosphere to exchange green ideas or discuss challenges in the start-up process. Borderstep moderates and answers questions.
  • Green business model talk
    The online talk offers the opportunity to ask questions about the green business model in a small group. In an open exchange with Patrick Stähler and the other participants, people interested in founding a company receive answers, feedback and inspiration.
  • Mentoring for green start-ups
    Shaping a future with a green business idea in which we operate in a sustainable, resource and environmentally friendly way? Through discussions, guidance in the start-up process and a great deal of experience and knowledge transfer, mentoring helps you to make the right decisions for your own business.

Borderstep is supporting member of the European Green Digital Coalition

The Borderstep Institute has been a supporting member of the European Green Digital Coalition since December.

The European Green Digital Coalition (EGDC) is a business initiative supported by the European Commission and the European Parliament. It stems from a call by the EU Council to harness the emission-reducing potential of digital solutions for all diverse sectors.

Green and digital transformation of the EU

The EGDC was founded in March 2021 by the CEOs of 26 ICT companies. They signed a declaration in support of the EU’s green and digital transformation. The declaration recognizes the ICT sector as an important player in the fight against climate change. The signatories pledge to contribute to the success of the green digital transformation in the EU and beyond.

Borderstep supports EGDC Working Groups

In the EGDC, the Borderstep Institute supports, among others, the working groups that discuss, for example,

  • how avoided emissions of a digital technology can be accounted for
  • how the emissions caused by a digital technology can be accounted for.

To this end, Borderstep regularly participates in discussion groups free of charge and contributes its case studies and experience from many years of research in the field of digitisation and sustainability.

  • © Alexander Schabel - ImpactNexus

Borderstep spin-off closes financing round

The Borderstep spin-off ImpactNexus has now successfully concluded its first round of financing.

Reliable assessment of the ecological and social impacts of companies is becoming increasingly important. And is one of the research priorities of the Borderstep Institute. This requires reliable data and smart tools for investors and companies alike. These are provided by the Borderstep spin-off ImpactNexus. ImpactNexus.io has now closed its first financing round of 800k€. This will allow it to fully pursue its growth targets for 2023.

The start-up offers sustainability reporting and impact management solutions. The target group of the offering is primarily venture capital and private equity portfolio managers.

ImpactNexus was developed in close cooperation with the Borderstep Institute for Innovation and Sustainability as a spin-off. Borderstep founder and director Prof. Dr. Klaus Fichter supports the project as shareholder and strategic advisor.


The financing industry is currently facing a major challenge: the EU’s Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation (SFDR).  According to this regulation, providers of financial products must submit an annual report by June 2023 for the first time on how they incorporate sustainability into their decision-making processes for their financial products and what impact they have on the environment, climate and society. The more sustainability-oriented a fund is, the higher the reporting requirements. This leads to high costs and effort for many providers. In addition, there is often a lack of know-how and an effective data flow between the various stakeholders in their portfolio.

10 x less time and cost to achieve sustainability goals

ImpactNexus develops innovative software-as-a-service solutions for this purpose. The goal is to reduce time and costs for sustainability reporting and optimization measures by a factor of 10.

This includes the option to query sustainability data from portfolio companies with just a few clicks and to generate SFDR reports in accordance with the official guidelines of the European Commission. The growing NEXUS database enables an automated assessment of the impact of portfolio companies and additionally provides tailored suggestions for optimization.

Dr. Jannic Horne, CEO of ImpactNexus: “With our digital solution, fund managers can assess the social and environmental impact of their portfolio and efficiently report to their diverse stakeholders while optimizing sustainability performance.”

Vision: Sustainability management for medium-sized companies

With an experienced team of sustainability experts, software developers and data scientists, ImpactNexus is also targeting medium-sized businesses in the medium term. These companies suffer greatly from the lack of sustainability consulting. Access to the NEXUS database potentially offers them an efficient, digital way to optimize their sustainability performance.

The assessment and measurement approaches of the ImpactNexus software are thereby based on the latest academic research and international best practices such as the Impact Management Project, IRIS+ or DIN SPEC 90051-1, a German ISO specification co-developed by Borderstep and the ImpactNexus team. Dr. Constanze Trautwein led the development of “DIN SPEC 90051-1: Standard for the Sustainability Assessment of Start-ups” for Borderstep and is part of the founding team of ImpactNexus.

Dr. Constanze Trautwein, Chief Product Officer ImpactNexus, Borderstep Research Fellow: “The Borderstep Institute supported us as a founding team with practical and scientific elements even before the start-up. This gave stability to the founding process and embedded ImpactNexus in a strong network right at the start.”

Sustainable business = future

The capital from the financing round will now be used for further product development. Investors such as Vireo Ventures, the female investor network encourageventures, and other business angels and funding providers participated in the round.

Jörg Walden, investor and advisor to ImpactNexus, has himself already founded companies in the context of compliance and sustainability reporting, including iPoint and CircularTree.

Jörg Walden, Serial Entrepreneur, Investor and Advisor ImpactNexus: “The future belongs entirely to companies that act sustainably, i.e. climate-neutral and in the spirit of the circular economy. ImpactNexus, with its database and software solutions, offers an important building block to achieve sustainability goals faster.”

Impact management: Borderstep expertise for urban food organizations

What can impact management achieve for urban food organizations and how can impact be measured in practical terms? This was the subject of an international workshop organized by Borderstep and its spin-off ImpactNexus for the EdiCitNet project.

Edible City organizations strive to maximize impact with their products, services, and activities. But how can impact be measured? And how can it be managed and improved in the long term? The online workshop offered international participants the opportunity to implement the first steps in setting up impact management for their organization.

Innovative solutions for the Edible City

The event was opened by Dr. Ina Säumel. She leads the EdiCitNet project at the IRITHESys research institute at Humboldt University in Berlin. Her presentation introduced the international network established by the project for cities that promote and foster innovative Edible City Solutions such as neighborhood gardens, green facade projects or beekeeping programs.

Prof. Dr. Klaus Fichter, Director of the Borderstep Institute, provided insight into impact management concepts, such as the logic model and the cycle of impact management, which form an important basis for the practical implementation of impact measurement.

Impact management tried out in practice

Based on this, Alexander Schabel, Co-Founder of ImpactNexus, introduced practical aspects for impact management. ImpactNexus is a spin-off of the Borderstep Institute that develops software products for companies to measure and improve their sustainability impact. With expert guidance and support from Alexander Schabel, the interactive session gave participants the opportunity to use ImpactNexus’ Impact Goal tool to define their organization’s impact goals, develop an impact model, and define corresponding impact indicators.

In this way, by the end of the workshop, the participants had gone through the first steps necessary to build an impact management system. Now they can use this as a basis for further implementation with their team.

The Edible Cities Network (EdiCitNet) is an EU-funded project to develop and implement innovations in the edible city sector – for green, edible and above all livable cities. The online workshop was offered as part of the EdiCitNet Marketplace, a global platform for networking and strengthening urban food initiatives. The Marketplace is a digital platform for initiatives and organizations that create innovative solutions for urban food production worldwide.

  • © BMWK - Anja Blumentritt
  • © BMWK - Anja Blumentritt

Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action honors Borderstep project

The European collaborative project “ScaleUp4Sustainability” convinced the jury of this year’s European Enterprise Promotion Awards (EEPA) and is now among the three finalists of the competition in the category “Supporting the Sustainable Transition”. The winner will be selected at the end of November in Prague (Czech Republic).

The collaborative project had already won the German preliminary competition. Project leader Prof. Dr. Klaus Fichter, Professor of Innovation Management and Sustainability at the Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg and Director of the Borderstep Institute for Innovation and Sustainability, now accepted the award at the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Climate Action (BMWK).

Europe is facing major challenges, for example in climate change and energy supply. We need innovative concepts that accelerate the ecological transformation of the economy and society. Our collaborative project ScaleUp4Sustainability rethinks entrepreneurship. Students and companies from various European countries are working together to develop sustainable products and business models: This is how economic solutions are combined with environmental and climate protection. We are delighted that the BMWK has publicly recognized our victory in the German preliminary round of EEPA 22.

For the 16th time, the jury of the European Commission will award outstanding projects and initiatives for the promotion of entrepreneurship with the European Enterprise Promotion Awards (EEPA). For the third time in a row, both winning projects of the German preliminary competition have made it to the shortlist of the European jury this year and are in the final of the European Enterprise Promotion Awards (EEPA): The “Action Program Inner City & Future Fund Inner City” of the Bremen Economic Development Agency and the European joint project “ScaleUp4Sustainability”, led by the Carl von Ossietzky University Oldenburg, in which Borderstep is involved, now have a great chance of receiving an award during the SME Assembly in Prague at the end of November.

Joint project focuses on cooperative green venturing

The European collaborative project ScaleUp4Sustainability developed innovative concepts for cooperation between students and companies from Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands using practical teaching and learning formats (cooperative green venturing). The three-and-a-half-year project was funded by the EU as part of the “Erasmus-Plus” support programme. The focus was on the convergence of sustainability and economics in the development of new business models. The ten partners in the joint project include the Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg as joint coordinator and the Borderstep Institute for Innovation and Sustainability. The “Challenge4Impact” project, which started in February 2022, builds on the approaches developed for cooperative green venturing.

EEPA recognizes promotion of entrepreneurship

Since 2006, the European Commission has annually awarded publicly funded or volunteer initiatives and non-profit companies dedicated to promoting entrepreneurship and enterprise with the European Enterprise Promotion Awards. The two-stage competition with six competition categories is held in the EU member states as well as in Albania, Armenia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Great Britain, Iceland, Kosovo, Moldova, Montenegro, Northern Macedonia, Serbia, Turkey and Ukraine. The participating countries identified a maximum of two projects or initiatives from two different categories in the course of national preliminary decisions – conducted in Germany by the RKW Competence Center in Eschborn – that stand out for their particularly innovative and inspiring support services. At the end of September, the international jury nominated 20 finalists for the 2022 round of the competition.

The European Enterprise Promotion Awards will be presented on November 29, 2022, during the EU Commission’s SME Assembly in Prague, Czech Republic. The SME Assembly is one of the most important events for small and medium-sized enterprises in Europe.

The shortlist with all finalists of the 2022 competition round can be found here.

Photo 1: Team ScaleUp4Sustainability receives the certificate at the BMWK as winner of the German preliminary round of EEPA 2022. In the picture: Alexandra Widrat, Researcher, Borderstep Institute; Prof. Dr. Klaus Fichter, University of Oldenburg and Borderstep Institute; Dr. Sabine Hepperle, Head of the Department of SME Policy at the BMWK; Johann Tölle, Student Representative, University of Oldenburg.

Photo 2: The winners in the German preliminary round of the EEPA 2022, the European joint funding project “ScaleUp4Sustainability” led by the University of Oldenburg and project “Bremen becomes new” of the Bremen Economic Development Corporation. Certificate presentation at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action.

Special Issue “Journal of Cleaner Production” published

The Journal of Cleaner Production has now published a special issue on assessing and forecasting the impact of new ventures on sustainability. Borderstep Director Prof. Dr. Klaus Fichter is one of the guest editors.

Start-ups implement environmental innovations

The Special Issue highlights entrepreneurs and start-ups as key players in the implementation of environmental innovations and new approaches to cleaner production. For entrepreneurship to promote sustainable development, it is crucial to understand how established firms and emerging young companies have a positive impact on sustainability.

Assessment of sustainability impacts of start-ups hardly researched so far

The sustainability impact of established companies and their products and services has been a key topic in business-related sustainability research for many years. This is true, for example, in the fields of social and sustainability accounting and reporting as well as entrepreneurship research. However, the assessment of sustainability impacts of start-ups, for example by means of life cycle assessments or social impact analyses, is a neglected area of research. The special issue of the Journal of Cleaner Production aims to change that.

The Journal of Cleaner Production is an international, transdisciplinary journal focusing on research and practice in the fields of cleaner production, the environment and sustainability. Through the articles we publish, the publication aims to help society become more sustainable.

Guest editors of the special issue are:

The articles of the Special Issue can be accessed via this link.


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Borderstep News

Heat pumps way out of gas dependence 03.03.2023

Borderstep co-founder Dr. Jens Clausen is co-author of a study on heat pumps presented by ScientistsForFuture just in time for the global climate strike. It shows that in just three years, Germany can reduce up to 60% of the amount of gas previously covered by Russian gas. More

Borderstep supports EU Commission on the topic of data centers 07.02.2023

Borderstep is researching synergies between data centers and energy systems in the DCESS project, which has just started. How can local energy systems use waste heat and water from data center operations? More

Smart City: How can development be managed? 02.02.2023

In a recent article for the Israel Public Policy Institute, Borderstep co-founder and senior researcher Dr. Severin Beucker looks at the state of the debate on this issue in Germany. The article can be downloaded free of charge. More