Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Cornetz: Education and research as responsibility for the future

Saarland’s university of applied sciences was founded in 1971 and renamed the University for Applied Sci­­en­­ces of Saar­­land (HTW) in 1991. Considering its forerunner in­­tu­­itions, the HTW can look back on 200 years of tradition. 200 years, through­out which it shows how educational institutions can actively shape the transformation of society. In 2009, 115 professors tought at the HTW in 24 courses. Since 2001, in­­ter­­national courses have been introduced and completely new areas of study were opened up without neglecting the traditional disciplines such as engineering on the side of the engineering sciences, or business ad­­mi­­ni­­stration on the economics sciences side. In 2005, the HTW course offer was completely changed to bachelor and master degrees.
Since 2000, the number of applications for a place at the HTW has nearly tripled and the number of enrollments and total number of students doubled.

A similar expansion at the HTW can be seen in its research activities. Both the research areas and the number of re­­­­search projects have increased signi­­f­­icantly. Research and development is for universities of ap­­plied sciences an activity that can’t be taken as a matter of course, because they do not re­­ceive the same basic government funding as the universities. The philosophy of the HTW, how­­ever, is that good teaching is inextricably linked to innovative re­­search. Current methods and in-depth know­­ledge can best be taught if the in­­­structors themselves keep at practise as re­­searchers.
This is confirmed by our partners in business and institutions, who strong­­­­ly emphasize the need of the industry and society for distinct application-oriented research and development work. In addition to the un­­doubt­­edly im­­portant basic research, a sig­­nificant need for solutions for speci­fic problems is documented. This could be specific questions about automation or technical quality monitoring in a company of engineering, or also the question of in­­tegration of young foreign citizens into sport clubs – to mention an example from the social sciences.


Universities of applied sciences are ideally suited for such questions be­­cause of the professional background of the professors.
After all, it is a central requirement for the selection of the academic staff that after their doctorate they must have worked for several years outside of academia and outside of the public service as well.

The vast majority of professors from HTW have worked in companies, often in de­­velopment-related areas and there­­­­fore know from personal experience the entre­­preneurial way of tackling problems prag­­matically. From modest beginnings, an extensive research and development (R&D) landscape has grown in recent de­­c­­ades. In 2008, more than seven million euros in R&D-related external funding was earned at the HTW and its associated institutes. Measured by the public budget of the uni­­versity, of (then) just under 15 million euros, the success of R&D at the HTW is obvious. Thereby one of the most important success factors is the intense cooperation with the companies.
HTW interns and graduates shorten the time lag between gaining knowledge at university and im­­plementation of innovation at the companies.


The much quoted “technology transfer by the heads” brings HTW students in contact with business practices early on. The Cooperative Study program of the HTW, a parallel to the stu­­dies or­­ga­­ni­­zed regular job of the students in companies whose work fields are in direct relation to the chosen field of studies has pro­­v­en to be an ideal solution. In­­de­­pen­­dent of federal financial aid (BAFöG) or side jobs, students can concentrate and carry out their studies quickly and find intensive contentual and personal contact with working life. For companies, broad op­­por­­tunities not only through transfer of knowledge but also efficient staff re­­cruitment are opened.
Short distan­­ces from university re­­search into the business world are also secured by the membership of Saarland entre­­pre­­­neurs in the Research Advisory Board of the HTW, which evaluates the re­­search pro­­jects. Technology transfer for pro­­jects is pro­­­­vided by the research institutes and groups of the HTW – currently there are nearly 20, amongst others such dis­­tin­­c­­tive institutes as the INFO In­­sti­­tute, IZES or FORGIS. Even the found­­ing of most of the HTW in­­stitutes was promoted by companies and in­­sti­­tu­­tions which are involved in the HTW re­­search. In 2006, in the frame­­work of the second pact for technology transfer, ten new HTW institutes could be founded with the support of the state government. From the perspec­­tive of the HTW, the innovation stra­­tegy of Saarland con­­tributes substantially to the optimization of know­­ledge transfer, most recently through the foundation of the joint Centers for Me­­ch­­a­­tro­­n­­ics and Auto­­ma­­­­tion tech­­no­­logy (ZeMA) of the HTW and the Saarland Uni­versity.

cornetz04Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Wolfgang Cornetz is rec­­tor of the University for Technology and Economy of Saarland and vice pre­­s­­i­­dent of the German-French University In­­sti­­tu­­te for Technology and Economy (DFHI/­­ISFATES). Cornetz studied economics at the RWTH Aachen and at Bremen University and among others did re­­search work at Harvard University. From 1997 to 2000 he was rector at the Harz Uni­­ver­­sity.