Urban development requires interdisciplinary, implementation-oriented research. A reciprocal exchange of knowledge is essential for both researchers at colleges and universities and practitioners in municipal administrations and the general citizenry. While larger, more affluent cities may draw on academic advice, smaller mid-sized towns rarely work with researchers. With “Fokus Mittelstadt: Inter- and Transdisciplinary Research College on the Future of Medium-Sized Towns ”, we are supporting a new interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research college that involves practical experience and prioritizes questions relevant to the future of smaller mid-sized towns in rural areas. Based on such an exchange, current issues on the local level can be included in research work and the latest scientific findings implemented in the towns. A top priority in a time characterized by accelerated growth of metropolitan regions is not to neglect the development of peripheral rural communities in decentralized settlement areas of Germany. While larger, more affluent cities may draw on academic advice, smaller mid-sized towns rarely work with researchers. The RWTH Aachen University in cooperation with University of Stuttgart and University of Potsdam convinced the jury with their concept "Medium-sized cities as Participate cities". Thanks to the innovative, structured approach to training academic talent, the research college will benefit the science system. It also aims to highlight the great potential of interdisciplinary, implementation-oriented urban research. PhD candidates will receive four-year grants and an opportunity to combine research and responsible project work in local administrations. In turn, municipal authorities and citizens of smaller mid-sized towns will be enabled to shape demographic and economic changes in a way that benefits their area’s future development.