Autonomous vehicles, silent communication, and automatic simultaneous translation: Scientists of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) develop innovations to support everyday life and enhance the quality of life. And they always keep an eye on their relevance to and their impacts on society. Research relating to the topic of man and technology was in the focus of the fifth Annual Reception of KIT that took place yesterday evening at the Gartenhalle of the Karlsruhe Congress Center.
“Ideally, new technologies serve society and allow for a better life,” said the President of KIT, Professor Holger Hanselka, at the event. “The interactions between man and technology, however, have long since become rather complex. To optimally solve societal problems in science, cooperation of first-class scientists of various disciplines is required. It is our declared objective to concentrate on our research strengths, e.g. in the areas of energy, mobility, and information and communication technologies, and to combine them smartly for the transformation of our energy system. Also in other areas, such as environmental research, we will further sharpen our research profile.”
The President of KIT, Professor Holger Hanselka (Photo: Sandra Göttisheim).
Hanselka added that nowadays, it is more important than ever to consider the consequences of technical developments for society. He emphasized that the KIT Humans and Technology Center ana-lyzes these important issues for the future. Here, 420 scientists of various disciplines, from engineering to natural sciences to the hu-manities, pool their competences. “This is the only way to master the challenges.”
For the KIT, the Presidential Committee has formulated a ten-step program: The first step was the implementation of a clear organiza-tional structure for the entire KIT as a basis of strategic further de-velopment. Hanselka added that also research-based teaching at all KIT locations will gain importance. “It will be strategically important to optimally position the KIT for international competition.”
Technology assessment has a long tradition at the KIT: The Office for Technology Assessment with the German Parliament (TAB) has been run by KIT’s Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS) since 1990. This office has become one of the most renowned technology assessment institutions worldwide.
Assessment of potential impacts and imponderabilities of technical developments by the TAB, from the internet of things to the com-plete blackout, also was in the focus of the keynote speech “Mensch, Maschine! Innovation braucht mehr als Technik” (Man and Machine! Innovation Needs More than Technology) by Ulla Bur-chardt, contract lecturer of TU Dortmund and long-time chairperson of the Commission for Education, Research, and Technology As-sessment of the German Parliament. “Technology developments as such are neither good nor bad. Whether they can be turned into innovations depends not only on developers and engineers, but also on whether customers and citizens see a benefit or a risk,” Burchardt said.
Are robots a help in the care of the elderly or are they inhuman? Can we do without a good educational background just because of Google? What are the objectives and impacts of Industry 4.0? Po-tential consequences of new technologies were discussed by pre-senter Markus Brock and the participants in the panel discussion “Reflecting Technology – Shaping Society”. These were experts from industry and science, namely, Christoph Winterhalter, Head of Product Group PLC & Automation of the ABB Group and Member of the Board of the VDI/VDE Society for Measurement and Automation, Dr. Stephan Fischer, Senior Vice President TIP Strategic Innovation of SAP AG and spokesman of the software excellence cluster , KIT Professor Tanja Schultz, Head of the Cognitive Systems Lab of KIT and Google Research Award winner, and Professor Armin Grunwald, Head of the KIT Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS).
During the Annual Reception, President Holger Hanselka handed over the KIT Innovation Awards. The first prize in the category of Competition of Ideas was won by Dr. Ute Schepers and Professor Stefan Bräse. With their project for the early recognition of malign melanoms, they won over 40 competitors. Professor Steffen Grohmann, Andreas Janzen, and Andreas Ebersoldt were granted the Transfer Project Special Award.
Being “The Research University in the Helmholtz Association”, KIT creates and imparts knowledge for the society and the environment. It is the objective to make significant contributions to the global challenges in the fields of energy, mobility, and information. For this, about 9,800 employees cooperate in a broad range of disciplines in natural sciences, engineering sciences, economics, and the humanities and social sciences. KIT prepares its 22,300 students for responsible tasks in society, industry, and science by offering research-based study programs. Innovation efforts at KIT build a bridge between important scientific findings and their application for the benefit of society, economic prosperity, and the preservation of our natural basis of life. KIT is one of the German universities of excellence.