Going beyond the imaginable: in his speech at the celebratory event held by the German Academy of Science and Engineering (acatech), Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz emphasised that in order for technological progress and innovation to happen, researchers needed to be allowed to pursue their ideas freely based on scientific curiosity.
This was the magic being worked by acatech “on a daily basis by conceiving innovations from the initial idea through to application and getting science, business and society together,” said Scholz, adding that acatech was an asset for Germany and a crucial investment in the country’s future.
The German Academy of Science and Engineering (acatech) is the national academy funded by the Federal and Länder Governments and the voice of the engineering sciences in Germany and abroad. Federal President Steinmeier is the patron. acatech advises policymakers and society on future policy issues relating to engineering and technology.
The Federal Chancellor said that when age-old certainties were under attack, the magic of science was needed more than ever. Russia’s war had destroyed these certainties by “using force to shift the borders of Europe and denying another country the right to exist,” he said, noting that the bravery of the Ukrainians was admirable, as was the way they were fighting for their freedom, their country and their lives. Germany would continue to support Ukraine – and would do so for as long as necessary, said Scholz.
Energy supply independent of Russia
Russia’s war had also shown very clearly that there was more at stake – namely “the rules by which we cooperate and stand by one another, our values and our prosperity,” said the Federal Chancellor. This was why this watershed moment was affecting each and every one of us, he said.
“Now more than ever we must advance the transformation of our economy towards climate neutrality and become independent of fossil fuels,” said Scholz, adding that Germany was now getting to grips with issues of the future for this reason and had to be able to organise its energy supply independently of Russia. As positive examples, Scholz cited the fact that the first liquefied natural gas terminals had been connected to the grid at the start of the year, while gas storage facilities were already 95 percent full.
In order to meet the challenges of the “greatest upheaval since the beginning of industrialisation” – namely the double transformation of decarbonisation and digitalisation – “we need the necessary technologies and close dialogue between policymakers and the engineering sciences”, the Federal Chancellor continued.
Technological sovereignty is the goal
In reference to the founding of acatech 20 years ago, Scholz said: “You have constantly enabled progress. You have played a key role in adapting university education of engineers to meet the demands of the times.” The Academy’s forecasts regarding the development of mobility provided an important basis for transport policy, said Scholz, and it had recognised the importance of the field of medical technology early on. Cooperation across disciplines had been part of acatech’s DNA “from day one”, said Scholz, as had communicating the significance of technology to citizens.
Germany had to assert its sovereignty in certain key technologies, said the Federal Chancellor.
“Here I’m thinking of semiconductors, microelectronics and quantum electronics, communication and energy technologies, and of course artificial intelligence.” Another promising example was quantum technologies, said Scholz: “We’re already at the forefront of research in this field worldwide.”
Plans to establish an agency for transfer and innovation
In order to ensure the results of research were fed into practical application and could form the beginning of a value chain, the Federal Government was seeking to make it easier for entrepreneurs and start-ups to take the step into the world of business, said Scholz: “To this end, we’re creating an agency for transfer and innovation that will bring together science, business and government departments.”
acatech’s expertise would be in demand here, said the Federal Chancellor. One good example of an idea co-initiated and developed by acatech that was now catching on throughout Europe was the Mobility Data Space, said Scholz in his speech: this was one of the lighthouse projects at Gaia-X, it thrived on the exchange of data between the automotive industry, mobility service providers and municipalities and showed the “need for collaboration between science, business and policymakers, between municipalities, the Länder, the Federal Government and Europe”. In connection with the successful future-oriented project Industry 4.0 and the topics of artificial intelligence and robotics, Federal Chancellor Scholz mentioned in his speech the Learning Systems Platform based at acetech.
Research and inventiveness as the key to hydrogen applications
Green hydrogen and hydrogen technologies were also a “huge issue” according to Federal Chancellor Scholz: he said this was what would determine the success of the energy transition and “therefore the entire transformation of our economy towards climate neutrality”. The key to the large-scale industrial application of hydrogen was research and the spirit of inventiveness, he said. acatech was making vital contributions in this area, he noted, including its Energy Systems of the Future (ESYS) platform and its Signpost for Hydrogen.