Research priority, interdisciplinarity, innovation, regionalism and internationalism are the cornerstones of the teachings the Hamburg University of Technology (TUHH), for the challenges of the future can only be mastered through the close interconnection of practical experience and research.
The challenges we are currently facing in Germany are enormous: sustainable energy transition, climate protection, digitalisation of economy and society, resource scarcity, development of the world’s population and integration of refugees in Europe, Germany and Hamburg. Turning these challenges into opportunities can only succeed with close collaboration between science and business. The most important guarantors of the future are excellently educated, trained and talented young people dedicated to science and technology who have the wherewithal to make significant contributions to societal development.
Let’s use Hamburg and its only university of technology, the TUHH, as an example: What opportunities and perspectives can result from a collaboration for the advancement of the innovation location?
The TUHH researches and develops “Technology for People”. It implements this research in its three competence fields “Life Science Technologies”, “Aviation and Maritime Systems” and “Green Technologies”. Here, the realisation that the consistent implementation of these focuses must entail the expansion of two cross-sectional technologies which underpin them is crucial: material sciences and digitalisation are of particular importance to TUHH, and they each find their way into all three competence fields. This could provide a fundamental opportunity for growth and innovation for the state within a digitalisation strategy jointly developed by politics, business and science.
Green Technologies in Hamburg: There can be no doubt that the success of the Hamburg energy sector will be extensively influenced by digitalisation in the future. Fact is that the energy transition, one of the projects of the century, will not succeed without digitalisation. However, Hamburg will benefit from a disproportionately high development potential in the area of wind power. This requires that the production and distribution of wind energy is channelled locally. Less expensive energy will promote company settlements and the creation of new jobs. Thus we can benefit from specific location factors provided we are successful in creating the scientific-technical prerequisites for generating wind energy and its distribution.
Aviation and Maritime Systems in Hamburg: Different topics play an important role here, which must be pursued and developed in Hamburg. Construction in and near water, harbour planning and construction and even offshore wind energy have a long tradition and it is impossible to imagine Hamburg without them. Then there are also the pioneering fields such as aviation, logistics and mobility which must be strengthened. But we must not lose sight of information science either, which ideally should be particularly geared towards engineering. Information science is equally important for the further development of the harbour (small port, smart logistics), and the development of the metropolis on the Elbe River as a sustainable city that it is worth living in (smart city, digital city).
Life Science Technologies in Hamburg: Hamburg offers outstanding opportunities of combining world-class research in medical technology with this important business sector. The TUHH and the Zentrum für Medizintechnik of the UKE (centre for medical technology at the Universitätsklinikum Hamburg-Eppendorf) are already working together on the topics of imaging, robotics and patient monitoring outside hospitals. Of course, research in this area would be impossible without the DESY research institute.
The TUHH has a lot to offer: There is much more to “Technology for People” than just the competence fields offered by the TUHH. Dedicated to the Humboldtian model of higher education, it is equally important to pay attention to those young talents who are to enjoy an outstanding education and training at the university in order to then assume responsible positions in business and science.
“We shape future engineers world needs most” – is the maxim pursued by contemporary teachings at the TUHH, and which focuses on multiple aspects: On the one hand, problem-based learning which promotes team skills as well as interest and understanding, and on the other hand, training in non-technical subjects and targeted measures for reducing the number of dropouts and promoting the integration of first-semester students at TUHH.
Technical universities must also join the competition for attracting intelligent and motivated minds. This makes it that much more important that TUHH has positioned itself in an exemplary manner: It has done away with university-style teaching and learning in large-scale settings and has instead established small groups – a clearly defined profile in its teachings, as a distinguishing feature, is particularly important for medium-sized universities.
And what has long since been applied in research now also applies to teaching: Digitalisation of education already influences how universities teach, and the trend will continue. The Hamburg Open Online University, supported by universities in Hamburg, is an important reflection of this development: tasks can be completed around the world in small, interdisciplinary groups. Education becomes more democratic and access to it becomes easier, without universities having to fear the loss of their unique features.
We, as a partner in science, contribute greatly to the development of Hamburg as a business and science location. That is why the need for strong technical universities and their specific educational mandate is greater than ever: only through world-class research and teaching can the economy remain competitive over the long term. Furthermore, the required discussion on the sustainable further development of our society can only be initiated based on the prosperity generated in this manner.
Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Garabed Antranikian
The author has been President of the Hamburg University of Technology (TUHH) since 2011. Following his university studies in Biology in Beirut from 1970 to 1976, and his doctorate at the Institute of Microbiology and Genetics at Göttingen University in 1980, he completed his postdoctoral habilitation in Microbiology in 1988. He researches and teaches as a professor for Technical Microbiology at the TUHH since 1988, and has headed the Institute for Technical Microbiology since 1990.