“There is no such thing as a national science, just as there is no such thing as a national multiplication table; if something is national, it is no longer a science”. This phrase was coined by the Russian narrator Anton Chekhov long before the encountering of internationalization and international competition. He appropriately described the self-conception of universities; he set a concise perspective of science that does not want to degenerate into lifeless textbook knowledge. This is also the way forward for the TU Ilmenau.
Universities can influence and advance the scientific development of a region, state or country. A country like the Republic of Germany, which is poor in raw materials, can ultimately only through research and development bring products on the market which through their sales ensure new jobs and prosperity. Today it is debatable whether economic structural policies can in fact be successfully operated through the establishment of universities. This is surely not a matter of course; a university on a green pasture does not necessarily also lead to industrial settlement. However, universities can certainly support structural transformation as shown in other regions.
Besides other hard and soft location factors the university profile is, especially in innovative research, decisive for an industrial environment. This again results in a qualitatively attractive education:
• Innovative research is the link to economics; it can lead to settlement
• Qualitatively outstanding teaching creates a highly qualified labour force; this can be another cause for industrial settlement.
With the implementation of new educational programmes ten years ago, the TU Ilmenau carried out a notable profile extension. A profile determining factor are the engineering sciences programmes; the existing natural sciences technical and economic components are complemented by further interdisciplinary study courses with natural science focal points (for example technical physics, materials technology, mechatronics) or with economic and social science focal points (media economics and applied media technology).
One of the central responsibilities in the area of teaching is the implementation of the Bologna Process. In 2004 it was decided to, as quickly as possible, carry out the implementation of the Bachelor and Masters degrees as well as the simultaneous cancellation of the diploma study programmes.
The development of a sustainable quality management system was started for the following primary processes: strategy and management, teaching and study courses as well as research. Internal and external efficiency controls are fixed components for the assessment of quality education and research. The possibilities that were currently in use at the TU for the evaluation of teaching and research have now been combined together in one system.
Research is the foundation of lively university teaching and further education and is used for the training of the next generation of academics and the further education of the university staff. Basic and applied research right through to the practical application and transfer into the economy is groomed and promoted at the TU Ilmenau.
The TU Ilmenau occupies leading national and international positions in basic research as well as applied research for certain competence fields. A high degree of competence is achieved through strategic new appointments, a well-directed scientific infrastructure development and the technical-technological environment, ensuring academic latitude in teaching and research. This also contributes towards the increase in international standing as well as the visible rise in the number of students. The interdisciplinary collaboration, the overlapping of faculty cooperation and the grouping of competencies into competitive research focal points are the formative characteristics of the university.
Focal point 1:
Micro- and nano-systems
Focal point 2:
Stationary and mobile intelligent systems
Focal point 3:
Innovative communication and media systems
The German Research Foundation (DFG) has given the university recognition for the above-mentioned developments through full membership admission in 2004.
The scientific core of the first research focal point is the scientific Institute for Micro- and Nanotechnologies (IMN), with the cooperation of about 30 per cent of all the university departments. A specific expression of scientific performance is shown by the special research area 622 “nano measuring and positioning systems”, which was established in 2002 and has already been evaluated with a positive outcome and granted a further work term.
A special development is experienced within the nano engineering division in the following fields of competence: nano sensor technology, nano electronics, functionalized peripherics and micro fluidics/ bio sensory engineering. Both last-mentioned focal points are attended to by junior research groups which belong to the “Macro-Nano” centre of innovative excellence.
The “precision technology and precision measuring technology” field of competence is undergoing a particular drive through the high industry interest and has ultimately found expression through an endowed professorship commencing in 2007.
The highly successful work of the DFG research group Magnetofluiddynamics, in the area of basic research has created the base for the setting of further focal points. All the researchers in the before-mentioned areas of micro and nanotechnology work in an excellently equipped centre for micro and nanotechnology – it comprises the essential conditions necessary for successful scientific activity.
In the second research focal point of the TU, the “stationary and mobile intelligent systems” has developed its main focus in consideration of the research field “intelligent assistance systems for the domestic environment, medical care and therapy as well as individual mobility”. Noteworthy here is the scientific activity relating to systems theory, robotics, medical technology and human-machine interface.
Specific multidisciplinary fields of application are very distinctive and scientifically successful in the biomedical technology and automotive engineering fields. A further research field with strategic significance is the “power engineering, power systems technology and mechatronics” section. The epicenter of scientific interest here is placed on the security and availability of energy networks, energy systems with a focus on solar energy as well as energy saving and efficiently optimized machinery and transmission systems.
Classified under the third research focal point “innovative communication and media systems” is the interdisciplinary and internationally directed focus “mobile communications”. Capable partners from the industry strengthen the already existing expertise. Research is concentrated above all on mobile, wireless access technology for broadband, multimedia communication networks as well as on multimedia technology for the preparation and presentation of information. A Fraunhofer research group called “wireless distribution systems” is currently being built up at the TU Ilmenau and is intended to complement the activities of the researchers ideally.
In the area of digital media technology (with the focus on acoustic systems) research activity is successfully being carried out, in cooperation with the Fraunhofer Institute for Digital Media Technology, with equal emphasis on the basic as well as application character of research. In this field, researchers’ interdisciplinary competencies are increasingly used for the solving of environmental issues like vibration and noise problems.
In addition, the TU Ilmenau successfully researches fundamental areas of engineering science that find application in all the above-mentioned research fields. It is worth mentioning, in connection with the construction processes, the work done towards optimization of virtual reality methods as carried out in the “Virtual Reality” competence centre of the university. This occurs with special emphasis on the interconnection of visual and acoustic information and higher data densities.
It is also necessary to mention those that, as overlapping research activities, are involved in the creation, processing and special refinement of construction materials. Here the areas of glass, ceramics, materials of electro technology and composite materials are represented with high expertise. Furthermore, numerous other basic and application-oriented research projects are being carried out at the TU Ilmenau. They are characterized by innovative approaches and high standards. The following serves as examples: the DFG research group Magnetofluiddynamics, “InnoProfile” – initiative of the BMBF (Federal German Ministry of Education and Research): “Innovative energy measurement and weighing technology through the application of mechatronic concepts”, “InnoProfile” initiative of the BMBF: “MIntEye – multimodal integration of ophthalmologic diagnostic technology” and the centre for innovative excellence “Macro-Nano” with offspring groups like “Mikrofluidik”, “BioSensorik” and “Funktionalisierte Peripherik”.
The third party funding of research at the TU Ilmenau for 2006 amounted to 17.91 million euros. In this regard current research contacts exist with more than 400 organizations worldwide.
Expression is given to these partnerships with organizations by the endowed professorships, for the lasting and sustainable development of the centres of excellence as well as the continual strengthening of the scientific profile of the university. They confirm the excellence of the application-oriented research fields.
Close collaboration and cooperative relationships supports the TU Ilmenau (within the framework of third party funding and the technology transfer) with various research and transfer institutions in the immediate vicinity of the university, thereunder the different Fraunhofer institutes and Steinbeis transfer centres.
The declared objective of research at the TU Ilmenau is the quick conversion of results into economic utilization. Besides the stimulation of off-spins from the university as well as the acquisition of cooperation partners, this also encompasses the design of new models for public-private partnerships with direct corporate involvement of the university in business organizations.
For this reason the “TU Ilmenau Service GmbH” as well as the “Technologiegesellschaft Thüringen mbH & Co. KG” were founded in 2005. The business activities of the TU Ilmenau Service GmbH lie in:
• The organization and takeover of sections of the marketing function of the university as well as regional development planning
• The adoption of technology transfer performances, for example the complete innovation chain from basic research up to prototype and service marketing
• The organization of education for study preparation as well as professional and academic development.
Thuringia has modern universities and polytechnics. They are modern in their multi-disciplinary and cross-disciplinary activities; they are modern in their educational quality. Although they offer a wide range in teaching and research, they have understood the need to build focal points in order to develop their own specific profiles.
These are talents that can be put to work. Naturally it is therefore the knowledge and technology transfer from the universities and polytechnics that plays an important role in regional economic development.
The author was born in 1957 and studied chemistry at the Claushal University of Technology where he received his doctorate in 1987, and in 1991 was promoted to professor in anorganic chemistry. In the following year he was appointed to the academic council and was a visiting professor at the Thorn University (Poland). He has been at Technical University of Ilmenau since 1998, and since 2004 he has been the rector of the TU.