Headline: Fellow Programme

Current calls for application: 

The Fellow Programme of the IASS Potsdam (now RIFS Potsdam)

The RIFS Fellow Programme is inspired by the Potsdam Memorandum’s call to gather all sources of ingenuity and inspiration from academia, politics, business and civil society to address the sustainability challenges of our time. The fellows are a key resource for the institute; they support our research, improve our transdisciplinary methodology, and, together with our researchers, reach out to political, economic and social actors.

The Fellow Programme is designed to bring highly qualified people from academia, the business world, and civil society to the institute, who provide expertise, inspiration, and creative input. In return, RIFS offers fellows the opportunity to develop their ideas in an international community of world-class researchers, within the institute as well as in the wider research landscape of Potsdam and Berlin. The fellows are actively supported in their endeavours to make new connections and to develop new ideas and activities together with RIFS researchers.

About 30 fellows come to RIFS each year. A public call for applications is issued each year for the following year. Beyond that, the Scientific Directors may invite individuals from all over the world to collaborate with RIFS on specific themes and activities for a limited period of time. RIFS seeks individuals from all disciplines and areas of society, including politicians, journalists and artists. The public call is often geared to topics and questions on which RIFS wishes to focus attention over the course of the envisioned tenure.

Klaus Töpfer Sustainability Fellowship
As part of the Fellow Programme, RIFS also awards the Klaus Töpfer Sustainability Fellowship once a year. Prof. Dr Klaus Töpfer is the Founding Director of the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) - now Research Institute for Sustainability (RIFS) - in Potsdam, Germany. With a wealth of experience in science, politics and the non-profit sector, Klaus Töpfer embodies the unique combination of perspectives required to realise the vision of RIFS. With its Klaus Töpfer Sustainability Fellowship, RIFS wants to honour and support individuals who, like Prof. Töpfer, are committed to sustainable development and build bridges between science, politics and society. Therefore RIFS assigns each year a fellowship to one eligible applicant and seeks applications from indviduals from Germany or abroad who have worked for many years on sustainability issues and have the potential to shape the future. The applicants should bring innovative ideas from their respective fields in science, the arts, civil society, business, politics or other areas of society.

In 2019 Brazilian health expert Dr. Nicole de Paula has been awarded the inaugural Klaus Töpfer Sustainability Fellowship. Start-up Founder Dr. Natalia Realpe Carrillo was named Klaus Töpfer Sustainability Fellow for 2020 until 2021. The Law-Professor Louis Kotzé became in 2022 the third Klaus Töpfer Sustainability Fellow. Since the beginning of 2023, Nino Jordan, with research interests in environmental policy and governance, has joined the RIFS as Klaus Töpfer Sustainability Fellow.

You can learn more about the Klaus Töpfer Sustainability Fellowship here.

Alumni Network
The RIFS Fellow Programme promotes the idea of gathering all kinds of knowledge and the wealth of ideas from science, politics, business and civil society to address the sustainability challenges of our time. After the tenure of their fellowship, RIFS Fellows continue to act across institutions and borders, using their knowledge and experience to initiate changes towards more sustainable societies. For that reason, RIFS strives to maintain contact with former Fellows upon successful completion of their fellowship.

In recent years, about 300 Fellows from over 40 countries have conducted research and carried out a variety of projects at RIFS. With the annually increasing number of Fellow Alumni, an expanding network around the world is emerging. The RIFS Fellow Alumni Network aims to bring together former and current Fellows, staff members of RIFS and its partners. And we also want to foster and enhance the mentoring of young scientists by Fellow Alumni.

The network offers RIFS Fellow Alumni a number of benefits:

  • Networking among an active international science community
  • Updates on Alumni activities, news from RIFS
  • Personal invitations to exclusive RIFS events
  • Promoting Fellows’ research and providing visibility
  • Guest authors for RIFS website / blog
  • Exchange of ideas and networking opportunities at Fellow Meetings and Tuesday Talks
  • Support in implementing innovative ideas and making projects happen
  • Possibility to become an Affiliate Scholar

Connect with former and current Fellows and RIFS staff and share your knowledge and skills.