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Innopool projects

For PoF IV, the Helmholtz Association together with the funding bodies agreed to set up virtual funds for each Research Field to support new research and development initiatives. The available funding amounts to 1% of the program funds (LK I). This agreement is stipulated in the overarching strategic guidelines (Forschungspolitische Ziele) for the Helmholtz Association. The innovation pool for the Research Field Earth and Environment serves to

  • strengthen the cooperation between the centers
  • fund new innovative ideas in 3-year projects
  • support initiatives proposed by young scientists
  • flexibly respond to emerging, socially relevant themes in research campaigns.

By pooling the centers' funds in a (virtual) research field budget, networking between the centers and flexibility and responsiveness to current challenges within the PoF will be strengthened.  For the period 2022-2024, the first four Innopool projects were selected by the Program Board in an internal evaluation process in spring 2021.


The main goal of the project is to develop and apply a novel storyline approach to examine how extreme events would unfold in different climates, thereby complementing classical climate scenario methods. Furthermore, novel ways of communicating uncertainty will be enabled by differentiating between dynamic (high uncertainty) and thermodynamic drivers of change. We anticipate that the results will make climate change and its impacts much more tangible, thus aiding adaptation and mitigation efforts.

The overarching research question is how recent weather, climate and environmental extreme events might unfold in future scenarios compared to present and pre-industrial climates, all the way to the impacts that matter. Focusing on Europe, SCENIC will tackle the following questions: Which processes determine extremes, and how will such processes change? What is the role of thermodynamic vs. dynamic drivers of change? How well are models representing extreme events, and what are causes of deficits? How sensitive is the ocean to extreme Greenland melt events, and how would specific extremes such as cold spells unfold with an AMOC changed by global warming? What are the drivers of air pollution during heat wave / drought events in past, present and future climates, and what does this imply for water resources, crop yield and forests? How would these and other extreme events impact soil carbon sequestration, emissions from crops, heat deaths, fires, traffic accidents and so forth?

Contact: Dr. Helge Goessling, AWI

2. High - CO2

The main goals of the project are to study physiological adaptation of microbial communities and individual microbes to very high CO2 concentrations and explore microbial utilization of CO2 for establishing CO2-based bioeconomic value chains. We will use existing drill core samples from the Eger Rift (ER, terrestrial site, Czech Republic) and samples from the Grimsey Hydrothermal Field (GHF, marine site, north of Iceland) – two sites exhibiting extreme levels of the greenhouse gas CO2. As the composition of microbial communities depends on the available substrates to generate energy and biomass, the study of the “background” mineralogy is also required to understand complex interactions of biological and geochemical processes to get a comprehensive picture of the coupling between biosphere and geosphere and assess the potential of biological and mineral resources.

By integrating expertise from different scientific fields of the involved partner institutes (geophysics ↔ mineralogy ↔ chemistry ↔ microbiology ↔ bioinformatics ↔ bioengineering), the project aims to generate a holistic understanding of a relevant Earth system, as formulated in the general program outline of “Changing Earth”. More specifically, the project will address central research questions of thematic cluster 2, as the studies aim to explore the biological resources evolved in the CO2-rich geological sites ER and GHF as basis to develop biotechnological processes using CO2 as substrate for microbially synthesized products. The project will thus, investigate potential innovative approaches to reduce the carbon footprint. Furthermore, investigations at the GHF can help to better understand the role of CO2-rich fluids in the formation of marine mineral resources.

Contact: Dr. Jens Kallmeyer, GFZ


P-LEACH assesses the impact of chemicals from globally increasing environmental plastic pol-lution on ecosystem functions and human health. Plastics impact ecosystems as a new habitat for colonization (“plastisphere”), and weathering leads to fragmentation and leaching of chemicals, including harmful additives (e.g., plasticizers, bisphenols, metals). The multi-disciplinary consortium jointly characterizes these pollutants and their synergistic impacts on ecosystem functions with a strong focus on microbial geochemical cycles in realistic aquatic settings along the land-coast-ocean continuum and at hot spots (German Bight, North Atlantic and Pacific Gyres, Lyngøyne/NO). P-LEACH also addresses human health effects using human cell lines and human tissues.

Contact: Dr. Annika Jahnke, UFZ | Gunnar Gerdts, AWI


The main goal of the project is to develop new integrated methods and models for multi-hazard risk assessment of coastal urban areas, subject to extreme geophysical and climatic events. This project will provide a unique opportunity to cut across several separate disciplines within these fields. An extreme event scenario in Europe that results from several interacting hazards that increasingly lead to cascading socio-economic impacts and require societal responses will be studied.

Emphasis will also be placed on the communication of results to stakeholders under the umbrella of SynCom. Novel assessments of such complex integrated risk scenarios are key to the development of coping mechanisms and risk reduction strategies for society. Through the collaboration between centers and the development of integrative methods, data and tools, this project will enable a synergy in the Program ‘Changing Earth’ required to increase our understanding of the interacting dynamics of the Earth system and the potential socio-economic impacts to which societies and the built environment are exposed.

Contact: Cecilia Nievas, GFZ