Press release: Einstein Center Digital Future inaugurated

Berlin becomes the hotspot of digital research

“With the inauguration of the Einstein Center Digital Future, today, we demonstrate the remarkable efficiency and innovative capacity of our city. It is also an indication that our Institutions of science, the business communities and political leaders are moving together in the same direction in their effort to transforming the Brain City Berlin into an internationally leading hotspot of digitalization”, Berlin’s governing mayor Michael Müller said at the official inauguration of the Einstein Center Digital Future (ECDF) in the forenoon of 3 April 2017 in the Robert Koch Forum in Wilhelmstrasse 67 in Berlin-Mitte. In effect, 50 new professorships will be established in the core area of digital infrastructure, methods and algorithms, including the innovation areas such as digital health, digital society and humanities and digital industry and services. A total of 38.5 million euros will flow into the project.

Representing the applicant institutions, namely Berlin University of the Arts and Humboldt University of Berlin and Free University of Berlin along with the joint faculty of the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Prof. Dr. Christian Thomsen, president of the representative institution Technical University of Berlin stated: “Within the shortest possible time, we have accomplished a project that is already getting a lot of attention internationally. Digitalization is fast, diverse, though menacing for some, it is full of opportunities. With our Einstein Center, we intend to find answers at the interfacing of disciplines and, we wish to provide a contact point to citizens which will allow them to know the effects of digitalization, to take part in it and to discuss their concerns with our scientists. I am quite proud that many of Berlin’s institutions are pulling together in the same direction. I also thank the policies that have laid out many paths for us. This project of Berlin will be a precedent for others and a fine example of our common goals in sciences.” The president of the Einstein Foundation Berlin, Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Günter Stock underlined the new opportunities offered by the ECDF in terms of a direct transformation of an “invention into innovation.” At the same time, he also emphasized the elemental responsibility of the public engagement which the Einstein Center Digital Future will fulfil: we will be developing new forms for assimilating people who indirectly and constantly deal with the topics of our research strategies, who nonetheless need to be involved in the journey into a digital future. Because it is a future not only for us in the field of research or, for those in the industry, but it is also a journey for our general public”, as Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Günter Stock averred.

Public private partnership

The board’s spokesperson of the new center, Prof. Dr. Odej Kao of the TU Berlin, remembered in his address: “Exactly 588 days have gone by since we got together for the first time on 24 August 2015 and the idea of a Public privat Partnership model was born. We have collected 38.5 million euros and created with this building an outstanding symbol for the Digital Agenda of Berlin. We have understood the nature of digitalization as a network. Our scientific program relies on exchange of ideas between the core methods of the IT and the fields of innovation in digital health, digital humanities and culture und digital industry and services. Our governance takes into account these different cultures and angles of vision and makes sure that the available means flow exclusively into interdisciplinary projects.”

So far, the magnitude of alliance between public bodies and donors and supporters is unique for the scientific location of Berlin. This project has been made possible by a number of partners from the business, the sciences and politics. So also, eight non-university research institutions are involved in the ECDF: the Berlin Institute of Health, the Fraunhofer Institute FOKUS, the Fraunhofer Institute for Telecommunications – Heinrich-Hertz Institute, the Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Micro-integration, the German Aerospace Center, the Max-Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Society, the Physical Technical Federal Agency and the Konrad-Zuse Center for Information Technology Berlin. Similarly, the consortium includes also the Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, each funding a professorship. The research institutions are providing 8.5 million euros towards the joint callings with the universities. The State of Berlin, too, is strongly committed to this. It contributes 50 Cents additionally for every euro raised from companies.

The inauguration event was accompanied by an exhibition that enabled visitors to experience the visions of the ECDF. A selection of participating research projects, companies and startups presented their ideas of digital future: animated dinosaurs ran through the premises, printed-out cardiac valves were seen, using 3D glasses people were able to peek into the insides of the human body and intelligent clothing alerted people against sudden occurrence of hazardous situations.

First callings already initiated

In response to invitations for professorships so far, the ECDF received 300 applications from over 70 countries. In fact, a junior professorship has already been taken up by Dr. Florian Tschorsch and the visiting professorship by Prof. Jochen Rabe. “On average, this process will take one year, but we have reduced it to just five months”, Prof. Kao revealed. At this point of time, as many as 32 of the envisaged 50 new professorships have been already advertised.

The Einstein Center Digital Future has an intended term of six years. The first promotional phase will run from 1 April, 2017 to 31 March, 2020 and, if the interim evaluation in 2018 turns out to be successful, the second phase will run from 1 April, 2020 to 31 March, 2023. Most of the 50 professorships will be advertised as junior professorships with a term of six years. Also, W2/W3 professorships and a visiting professorship will be instituted. Two major concerns are to acquire, as much as possible, many lady scientists for the professorships and to perpetuate a part of the professorships financed by private and industrial funds. About 20 companies are taking part in the Einstein Center Digital Future and a total of 12 million euros flow into financing the professorships. Among others, the contributing companies include Berlin’s water works, Cornelsen, German-Turkish Advanced ICT Research Center, Intel, SAP, Telekom and Viessmann.

The Einstein Center Digital Future views itself to be a nucleus for research work and promotion of digital structures in sciences, economy and society operating across universities. Instead of new isolated initiatives, the intention behind the project in Berlin is to establish more alliances, new forms of collaborations, and to concentrate on innovative interdisciplinary cutting-edge research and on excellently trained young scientific talent. For example, the research work is envisaged to be undertaken in the fields of Smart Housing, Smart Cities, Smart Mobility, Digital Education, Bio-informatics, Personalized Medicine, Digital Diagnostics and new methods of genome data analysis, bio-medical imaging processing and semantic data intelligence, identity management, physical principles of the IT security, Internet of the things or Wearable Technologies. Even topics such as water and waste water systems 4.0, digitalization and world of work, including digitalization and multicultural aspects have a part to play.

Spokesperson for the ECDF is Prof. Dr. Odej Kao of TU Berlin, while Prof. Dr. Erwin Böttinger of Berlin’s Institute of Health Research is the spokesperson of the department of Digital Health. Prof. Dr. Gesche Joost, Berlin University of the Arts, is the spokesperson for the department of Digital Society and Humanities, Prof. Dr.-Ing. Jochen Schiller of Free University of Berlin is the spokesperson of the department of Digital Industry and Services. Prof. Ph. D. Johann-Christoph Freytag of Humboldt University of Berlin is the spokesperson of the department of Digital Infrastructure, Methods and Algorithms.