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Prof. Dr. Philipp Späth

Chair of Sustainability Governancephilipp-spath.jpg

Institute of Environmental Social Sciences and Geography
Tennenbacher Str. 4
D-79106 Freiburg

Telefon: 0761 203 3725
Telefax: 0761 203 3729

Office hours: by appointment



Research Interests   |   Courses Taught   |   Professional Experience   |   Education   |   Avocational Activities   |   Selected Research Projects  |  Publications    |   PhD Supervision


Research Interests


  • (Urban) Environmental Governance
  • Transformation of energy, mobility and food systems
  • Regional and municipal energy, climate and transport policies
  • Multi-level governance
  • Smart City initiatives
  • Coordination through guiding visions 
  • Methods of transdisciplinary research


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Courses Taught


  • Technology Assessment
  • Urban Sustainability Transitions


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Professional Experience

Since 2015

Albert-Ludwigs-Universität, Freiburg
  • Head of research group "Urban Environmental Governance"


Albert-Ludwigs-Universität, Freiburg
Assistant Professor
  • Research and Teaching on the subject of "Environmental Governance"


Interuniversitary Research Centre for Labor, Technology and Culture, IFZ in Graz
Senior Researcher 
  • Project coordination (National, EU)
  • Lecturing at the Universities of Klagenfurt und Graz


fesa e.V. Freiburg" (Association for renewable Energy in the Freiburg Region)

Projectcoordinatior and Director 


City of Freiburg, Environmental Protection Agency   

Alternative national service 


Institute of Cultural Geography, Albert-Ludwigs-Universität, Freiburg
Research assistant


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  • Albert-Ludwigs-Universität, Freiburg

     Habilitation; Venia Legendi: Environmental Governance and Urban Studies


  • Alpen-Adria Universität, Klagenfurt
    PhD  in Philosophy (Science and Technology Study)
    Dissertation Topic: "New Forms of Governance forshaping socio-technical change"


  • Albert-Ludwigs-Universität, Freiburg
      Magister Artium (M.A.) in Political Sciences and in Geography

1993 - 1994

  • Freie Universität, Berlin

     Studies in Political Science and Geography


  • Albert-Ludwigs-Universität, Freiburg
    Studies in Political Science and Geography


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Avocational activities (selection)


2012 - 2017

  • GartenCoop Freiburg (a Community Supported Agriculture initiative in the Freiburg region) 
    Active member (legal affairs working group), "Vorstand" (Formal representative) since 2014

2010 - 2016

  • Genova Wohngenossenschaft Vauban eG 
    Member of the advisory board

2010 - 2011

  • City of Freiburg, Environmental Protection Agency
    Member of the council for the CHP Program

2000 - 2002

  • Freiburg City Council Committee for Environmental issues
    serving as nominated citizen consultant

1998 - 2001

  • Local Agenda 21 in Freiburg
    Initiation and coordination of a working group on Energy

1994 - 1997

  • Carl-Duisberg-Gesellschaft (now: InWent.Org/Giz)
    Scholarship holder and Employee in the ASA Program


Selected research projects

  • Nachhaltige Energie der Zukunft: Soziotechnische Zukunftsbilder und Transformationspfade für das österreichische Energiesystem (2009 - 2010)
  • Climate Change in Murau: Mit abgestimmten und robusten Maßnahmen Klima und Bevölkerung bestmöglich schützen (2008 - 2009, Projektleiter) 
  • Die Gestaltung technischen Wandels in Energieregionen durch Leitbilder - Ein Weg zu nachhaltigen Energiesystemen (LeitER, 2004-2007, Projektleiter)
  • Integration durch Kooperation: Chancen zur Netzintegration dezentraler Stromerzeugung (InteKoop, 2005-2007, Projektleiter)
  • DG GRID - EU Projekt zu dezentraler Stromerzeugung und Regulierung (DG-Grid, 2005-2007, Projektleiter für den österreichischen Beitrag)
  • Bioenergy's Role in the EU Energy Market (Bio-Energy, 2003-2004)
  • Transition zu nachhaltigen Produktionssystemen mittels Szenarien-Prozessen (Transition, 2003-2005, Projektleiter)


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Publications (selection)


  • de Hoop, E., Boon, W., van Oers, L., Smith, A., Späth, P., and R. Raven (2022). "Deliberating the knowledge politics of smart urbanism". Urban Transformations 4(6).

  • Späth, P. and J. Knieling (2020). "How EU-funded Smart City experiments influence modes of planning for mobility: observations from Hamburg." Urban Transformations 2(1): 2-19.

  • Oers, L. v., S. Marvin, P. Späth, R. Raven, E. d. Hoop and E. Jolivet (2020). "The politics of smart aspirations: interrogating the knowledge claims of smart mobility." futures 122.

  • Jensen, J. S., Cashmore, M. & Späth, P. (2019). "Politics of Urban Sustainability Transitions: Knowledge, Power and Governance", Abingdon: Routledge.

  • Mischkowski, N. S. and P. Späth(2019). "The Role of Companies-in-Movements in Regional Sustainability Transitions - A case study on the Economy for the Common Good in South Tyrol " ZfwU 2019(3): 376-405.

  • De Hoop, E., van Oers, L., Becker, S., Macrorie, R.,  Spaeth, P., Astola, M., Boon, W. (2019): “Smart as a global vision? Exploring smart in local district development projects”, Architecture and Culture 7(2), 1-19.

  • Raven, R., Sengers, F., Spaeth, P., Xie, L., Cheshmehzangi, A., & de Jong, M. (2019). Urban experimentation and institutional arrangements. European Planning Studies, 27(2), 258-281.

  • Späth, P. & Knieling, J. (2019). "Smart City Experimentation in Urban Mobility – Exploring the Politics of Futuring in Hamburg". In:  A. Lösch, A. Grunwald, M. Meister and I. Schulz-Schaeffer. Socio-technical futures shaping the present - Empirical examples and analytical challenges;Heidelberg: Springer VS; pp. 161-185.

  • Späth, P. & Knieling, J. (2018). "Endlich Smart-City-Leuchtturm: Auswirkungen des EU-Projektes mySMARTLife auf die Planungspraxis in Hamburg". In: S. Bauriedl and A. S. (Hg.). Smart City - Digitale Technologien, Raumproduktion, Intervention, Transcript-Verlag; S. 345-356.

  • Arifi, B. & Späth, P. (2018). "Sleeping on coal: trajectories of promoting and opposing a lignite-fired power plant in Kosovo." Energy Research & Social Science 41: 118-127.

  • Giurca, A. & Späth, P. (2017). "A forest-based bioeconomy for Germany? Strengths, weaknesses and policy options for lignocellulosic biorefineries." Journal of cleaner Production (153): 51-62.

  • “Global challengers can be local incumbents: About the district heating system in Freiburg”, Invited presentation at the Workshop on „Incumbent-challenger dynamics in energy transitions: Governmental challenges”, Free University Berlin (FFU) and Helmholtz Alliance “Energy-Trans”, Berlin, 18.September 2015. 

  • Hodson, M., Marvin, S. & Späth, P. (in print). "Subnational, Inter-scalar Dynamics: The Differentiated Geographies of Governing Low Carbon Transitions - With Examples from the UK". In:  H. G. Brauch, Ú. O. Spring, J. Grin and J. Scheffran. Handbook on Sustainability Transition and Sustainable Peace (STSP) New York, Springer.

  • Späth, P. & Rohracher, H. (2014). "Cities and socio-technical change - Dynamics at an urban junction of heat infrastructure and building standards." Energy Policy 78: 273-280.

  • Späth, P. & Rohracher, H. (2014). "Beyond Localism: The Spatial Scale and Scaling in Energy Transitions". In:  F. J. G. Padt, P. F. M. Opdam, N. B. P. Polman and C. J. A. M. Termeer. Scale-sensitive Governance of the Environment. Oxford, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd: 106-121.

  • Rohracher, H. & Späth, P. (2014). "The Interplay of Urban Energy Policy and Socio-technical Transitions: The Eco-cities of Graz and Freiburg in Retrospect." Urban Studies 51 (7): 1415–1431.

  • Späth, P. (2012). "Understanding the social dynamics of Energy Regions - The importance of discourse analysis." sustainability (4): 1256-1273.  Url:

  • Späth, P. and Rohracher, H. (2012). "Local demonstrations for global transitions - Dynamics across Governance Levels Fostering Socio-Technical Regime Change Towards Sustainability." European Planning Studies 20(3).

  • Späth, P. and Rohracher, H. (2011). „‘Eco-Cities’ and the social dynamics of urban climate policies and energy transitions “. In: Bulkeley, H., Broto, V.C., Hodson, M. and Marvin, S.: “Cities and low carbon transitions”, Routledge. pp: 88-106.

  • Rohracher, H., Schreuer, A. et al. (2011). E-Trans 2050 - Nachhaltige Energie der Zukunft: Soziotechnische Zukunftsbilder und Transformationspfade für das österreichische Energiesystem. Graz & Wien.

  • Späth, P./ Rohracher, H. (2010). "‘Energy Regions’: The transformative power of regional discourses on socio-technical futures." Research Policy 39(4): 449–458.

  • Späth, P. (2010). Aus transdisziplinären Projekten lernen: Potentiale interner ex post Evaluationen anhand einfacher Leitfragen. Technology Governance. Der Beitrag der Technikfolgenabschätzung. G. Aichholzer, A. Bora, S. Bröchler, M. Decker und M. Latzer. Berlin, edition sigma: 353 - 360.

  • Schreuer, A., Rohracher, H. Späth, P. (2010). "Introduction - Transforming the energy system: the role of institutions, interests and ideas." Technology Analysis & Strategic Management 22 (6 (Special issue edited by Schreuer, A.; Rohracher, H. & Späth, P.): 649 — 652.


For the most up-to-date list of publications, please visit the University of Freiburg Research Data Bank here.


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PhD supervision



  • Bleta Arifi: “Objects and subjects of dissent: Analyzing opposition to wind and coal based energy infrastructures in Germany and Kosovo”.


  • Chelsea Tschoerner: “Sustainable Mobility in City Regions - Exploring the Role of Discourse in Institutional Change”.

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