Worldwide top-level science and research are a critical prerequisite to ensure the continued success of the business location of Germany in the future. Ingenuity and innovation are a trademark of our state and the source of productivity of our society and our citizens. However, that leading position of the state can only be maintained if enough new skilled recruits will continue to be available in the future to keep the innovation engine running in universities, research facilities and companies. The research and science location of Southern Hessen is contributing to that in an outstanding manner.
The area between Rhine, Main and Neckar with Darmstadt, the city of science, at its centre is counted among the regions of the future in Europe. To that effect, the location benefits not only from the neighbouring metropolitan regions Rhine-Main to the north and Rhine-Neckar to the south. It is the central location in the heart of Germany and in the centre of Europe with ideal road, water, rail and airway connections, in particular, that crowns the attractiveness of the location. Moreover, the charming cultural landscape along the Bergstraße with UNESCO World Heritage sites such as the Abbey of Lorsch and the Messel Pit, the Geopark Bergstraße-Odenwald, the Jugendstil architecture of the artist colony on the Darmstadt Mathildenhöhe as well as the countless palaces, castles, museums, theatres and historical old towns reveal a unique appeal. The latter benefits not only the many international companies but also the numerous education, research and training facilities in their search for staff – whether new graduates or eminent researchers, domestic or foreign. The Darmstadt University of Technology (TU Darmstadt) and the Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences are regional representatives of the performance of universities in Hessen. Dozens of renowned research and scientific institutes – including four Fraunhofer Institutes, the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) and EUMETSAT – are headquartered in Southern Hessen. Moreover, investments in the billions are giving rise to one of the world’s largest facilities for fundamental physical research at the the GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research: the FAIR particle accelerator. FAIR is one of the most important infrastructure projects in the field of fundamental research in Europe.
It will offer worldwide unique research opportunities and attract scientists from around the world to Southern Hessen – from young talents to established professors.
Since 1999, the promotion of education, research and science have been among the priorities of state policy. The state government considers investments in those areas to be crucial for the future. The research policy of Hessen is aimed at promoting the location and creating dependable structural conditions for universities and non-academic institutions. Traditionally, the bulk of the support for research takes the form of institutional promotion of universities based on performance-related budgeting. In the so-called performance budget, achievements in research are rewarded and acknowledged with bonuses.
In addition, distinctive development projects and priorities at universities are financed through the innovation and structural development budget. Those additional funds established in the Higher Education Pact between state government and universities amount to sixteen million euros per budget year until 2015. They are granted at the request of the university administration, typically in accordance with a target agreement and, as the case may be, upon an external review.
With the aim to profile the Hessian research facilities and to promote networking of Hessian universities with each other as well as with non-academic research facilities and local industries, the Hessian state government launched its own state excellence programme in 2007: the Initiative for the Development of Scientific and Economic Excellence (LOEWE). Through that excellence competition, universities and research facilities of Southern Hessen were able to profile themselves as well. The LOEWE centres “CASED – Center for Advanced Security Research Darmstadt”, “AdRIA – Adaptronic-Research, Innovation, Application” and “HIC for FAIR – Helmholtz International Center for FAIR” as well as the LOEWE research priorities “Intrinsic Logic of Cities”, “Soft Control – Using Polymer Molecules at Interfaces to Switch Functions”, “Cocoon – Cooperative Sensor Communication” and “Dynamo PLV – dynamic and seamless integration of production, logistics and transportation” are representative of the outstanding research achievements in Southern Hessen. Nearly 70 million euros in state government funds are available for those beacons of excellent research to fully develop their profiles.
They are complemented by projects of the LOEWE funding programme “Förderlinie 3” between companies and research facilities. Between 2008 and 2012, in the Darmstadt area alone, a total of 27 companies, 14 institutes of TU Darmstadt and two institutes of the Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences are receiving over three million euros in funds for R&D projects. The priorities of the applied research projects focus on the development of new products and processes in the fields of mechanical engineering, optical technologies, materials technologies as well as information and communication technologies. In the same time period, the industry is further contributing approximately four million euros to the research spending.
The IT research illustrates that achievements of individual institutions in the Hessian excellence initiative are also models for achievements in the federal excellence competition and funnel additional external funds into the region. For instance, over 20 million euros were attracted through the Initiative for Excellence competition of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) alone and for the purpose of the BMBF competence centre for IT security research.
The Hessian government is aware of the significance of information technology as well as researching and further developing it as an important location factor for innovation power. The aforementioned achievements are outstanding examples of the performance of IT science in Southern Hessen. In order to enhance it, the state government is promoting a variety of initiatives such as upgrading high-performance computing to one of the most important scientific meta-disciplines. Since 2011, TU Darmstadt has been building one of the fastest high-performance computers in Germany. Great research projects such as the excellence cluster “Center of Smart Interfaces”, supported through the excellence initiative, and the “Graduate School of Computational Engineering” require enormous computational capacities for the simulation of complex technical systems. The expected investment costs for the high-performance computer including the computer building amount to 20 million euros.
However, research promotion in Southern Hessen is not the only top priority of the state government. Great weight is also given to expanding and modernising the infrastructure of our universities and research facilities as well as making it more competitive. The construction and investment programme HEUREKA (university development and reconstruction programme: renewal, concentration and expansion of research and education in Hessen) is to modernise the university infrastructure to the tune of three billion euros in total financing volume by 2020.
That is a prerequisite for Hessian universities to survive the national and international competition. HEUREKA creates the necessary structural conditions; for, the reform of academic structures, the internationalisation of universities and the required boosting of research are confronting universities with considerable challenges. For the first time, a comprehensive investment plan was submitted for all of the twelve Hessian universities, universities of applied sciences and art colleges. For each of them, an integrated construction plan was developed. Based on those plans, a total of 310 million euros are earmarked for measures at TU Darmstadt and 100 million euros the Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences.
In addition, the special investment programme for schools and universities launched in 2009 by the state government and the second federal economic stimulus package place a total of 541 million euros at the disposal of Hessian universities. An exemplary measure from those programmes is the auditorium and media centre currently under construction on the Lichtwiese campus for about 35 million euros from the special investment programme for schools and universities. TU Darmstadt receives more than 23 million euros in funds from the second federal economic stimulus package. With a total cost of about 43 million euros, the renovation of the multi-storey building in Schöfferstraße is the most significant building project for the Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences. Through the second federal economic stimulus package, another nearly 14 million euros are available for measures at the Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences.
All those measures contribute to boosting the excellent position of the research and science location of Southern Hessen. That is a prerequisite for universities, research facilities and companies to score in the rising national and international competition for the best minds, contracts and research funds.
The author (born in 1962) has been Hessian minister for science and art since 2009. She studied law in Würzburg and Göttingen and, after the second state examination, she worked as a lecturer as well as in the administration of the Free State of Thuringia. From 1993 to 1995, she was office manager for the senior mayor of Kassel. Since 1995, she has been a member of the Hessian state parliament.