Since October 13, 2006, German science has been looking rather curiously at Karlsruhe. After the Universität Karlsruhe won the Excellence Initiative launched by the Federal Republic of Germany and the German states, this project that had been the reason for the success has shifted into the focus of interest: The merger with the Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe to the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). Meanwhile, both KIT partners have drawn up a target concept of this planned merger with the support of The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) that accompanies the project free of charge. This concept was submitted to the federal and Baden-Wuerttemberg state ministries involved: The Universität Karlsruhe and Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe wish to bundle their capacities in research, lecturing, and innovation in a continuous process. Major novel features characterizing the restructured and optimized KIT research in the future consist in the competence portfolio, i.e. all know-how and skills contributed by the KIT employees, and in the KIT centers and key areas that combine related projects and Helmholtz programs.
This merger of a national large-scale research institution and a research university will give rise to an institution of internationally excellent research and lecturing in natural and engineering sciences, the “Karlsruhe Institute of Technology” (KIT).
“KIT is implementing the often requested networking of university and non-university research”, states Professor Dr. Eberhard Umbach, Chairman of the Executive Board of the Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe. “Doing this, KIT consistently is going much further than any other model and, thus, setting standards for the German research community.”
Research, lecturing, and innovation are very closely related in KIT. This will increase the attractiveness of the location for young people, who brim over with enthusiasm for research, and additionally enhance the practical orientation of lecturing.
“Our common goal is excellence in research, lecturing, and innovation”, underlines Professor Dr. Horst Hippler, Rector of the Universität Karlsruhe. “This triad will entice the best experts from all over the world to come to Karlsruhe.”
KIT research is based above all on the capabilities and competencies of its scientific employees. The KIT concept is aimed at linking the competence level with the project level in an optimum manner. Depending on their expert know-how, scientists work in different fields of competence. Related fields of competence are bundled in competence areas. All competence areas make up the competence portfolio of KIT. It is the basis of scientific communication in KIT and self-organization of research projects (“bottom up”). Moreover, related and mostly trans-disciplinary research projects and scientific infrastructures are combined in highly visible strategic organizational units, the KIT centers and KIT key areas. These cover in particular the program-oriented research activities of the Helmholtz Association.
“By January 1, 2008, the centers of “Energy”, “NanoMicro”, and “Elementary and Astro-particle Physics” as well as the key area of “Information, Communication, and Organization” will be established. Other centers and key areas will be conceived in the course of next year”, explains Eberhard Umbach. “It will be these centers and key areas that will make KIT visible to the outside and distinguish themselves in international competition. This structure reflects the paramount strategic goal of our research.”
KIT intends to position itself such that it will become even more attractive for best researchers. An example is Professor Dr. Anne Ulrich. She is heading an institute of the Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe and holding a chair at the Universität: “I received a number of interesting offers from different universities”, states the renowned scientist. “But it was the joint equipment and the close bond between the Universität and the Forschungszentrum in my field of work, which perfectly met with my conceptions and plans of executing research at the interface of biochemistry and nanotechnology. This is why I came to Karlsruhe.”
Lecturing and Promotion of Young Scientists
The studies that will be offered by KIT in the future will be characterized by an optimization of classical university lectures and the advanced training of students, post-graduates, and post-docs. Research will be integrated much more strongly in lecturing. The students will be brought closer to large-scale research. Specific promotion of talents will be a matter of course. An extensive career service will be offered to support technology transfer via heads.
“This closer relationship to research and enhanced interdisciplinarity will set new standards in lecturing”, promises Horst Hippler. “New funding models shall serve to further bond the best of our well-trained young scientists to us.”
So-called “Young Investigator Groups”, for instance, are funded under the Excellence Initiative and aimed at promoting excellent ideas of young scientists.
“I will be able to pursue my scientific objectives in a highly independent manner for at least four to five years, with the corresponding evaluation”, rejoices Dr. Timo Mappes, who has been heading such a Young Investigator Group since June 2007. He intends to develop low-cost disposable chips with an optical interface for analytical applications in biology and medicine. “I am a mechanical engineer and work at the Institute of Microstructure Technology of the Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe. Under KIT, it will be much easier for me to cooperate with physicists and biologists at the Universität Karlsruhe. Consequently, the interdisciplinary character of my project work will be strengthened and our development will be tailored much better to the needs of the users.“
It is the objective of KIT to become the leading innovation partner of industry in all fields covered by its competence portfolio. This includes an extensive technology screening as well as accompanying and consulting activities for close-to-industry projects, an accelerated transfer to marketable products, easier access to risk capital, and support in the foundation of new enterprises. To promote innovation, KIT has established three transfer channels: Via persons, know-how, and licenses. The KIT industry club will complete the scope of offers. A new instrument to enhance transfer via persons are so-called “shared professorships”, with half of the funds being provided from the Excellence Initiative and the other half by an industry partner.
“Capable young scientists are given the chance to work in KIT and in industry and, thus, to decide whether they wish to start a university or an industry career”, emphasizes Horst Hippler. “Another instrument are jointly funded groups of researchers”.
“In the field of innovation as well as in other fields, we have rather different cultures at the Universität and Forschungszentrum”, adds Eberhard Umbach. “Together, we will compare the strengths of both cultures, transfer them in the case of success, and extend them.”
The KIT Project
In October 2006, the Universität Karlsruhe succeeded in all three funding lines in the first round of the Excellence Initiative launched by the Federal Republic of Germany and the federal states. As one of three universities, it was granted the elite status. This success was based largely on the concept for the future. The central element of this concept is the foundation of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) together with the Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe.
Both partners jointly drew up a KIT concept to define both the contents and the organizational structure of KIT. This concept phase was accompanied by a group of representatives from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, the Baden-Wuerttemberg Ministry of Economy and that of Science, Research, and Art as well as from the Helmholtz Association. By the end of 2007, this process will lead to binding arrangements within the framework of a foundation agreement.
The planned merger of the Universität Karlsruhe and Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe to KIT is supported by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG). KIT profits from the experience BCG gained from mergers of enterprises. Up to 3% of the BCG staff resources are available each year for “not for profit” projects that are committed to societal purposes. “Our BCG team with three local consultants wishes to contribute to an optimum use of the potentials of both institutions, the Universität and the Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe” explains Dr. Martin Wörtler, Managing Director of BCG. “This is why we have supported the KIT process since the beginning of this year.”
Further information may be obtained from: