Photo: acatech/I. Magrilov


Promoting the debate on new technologies

acatech aims to provide a platform for discussing new technologies that will change the world we live in. It brings together figures from government, industry, academia and civil society to explore the present and future role of technology in our society and how society can ensure that technology serves the interests of people and the environment. The academy’s analyses and recommendations are intended to promote debate on new technologies and outline evidence-based policy options. This work is informed by acatech’s guidelines for policy advice to government and society. The guidelines call for excellence and interdisciplinarity in the academy’s project work. They also require acatech to invite discussion of the results by communicating them in a transparent and easy-to-understand manner, and to cultivate a dialogue with government and the public. Through its discussion events, forums, publications, competitions, presence at trade fairs and numerous partnerships, acatech was once again able to communicate important ideas about engineering and technology policy issues during 2017. 

Dialogue with government and society

In 2017, acatech once again promoted discussion of technology issues among policymakers through various events for deputies of the German Bundestag and the Bavarian State Parliament. In April, members of acatech’s Executive Board discussed technology policy issues for the election year and beyond with research policymakers from the parliamentary groups in the German Bundestag. They agreed to further strengthen the dialogue between policymakers and the technological sciences.

The sixth Innovation Dialogue of the outgoing parliament took place on 15 June at the Federal Chancellery. Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel, Federal Minister of Education and Research Johanna Wanka and State Secretary Matthias Machnig discussed Germany’s role in European innovation policy with representatives of industry and academia.

Strategies for preventing student drop-out in the engineering sciences were discussed at the “acatech am Mittag” (Lunch with acatech) event with deputies of the German Bundestag held in Berlin in June. An acatech project on student drop-out conducted an in-depth investigation of why students drop out of engineering courses or switch to a different subject. The findings provided the basis for a series of recommendations geared towards reducing drop-out rates.

An “acatech am Morgen” (Breakfast with acatech) event in February provided deputies from the Bavarian State Parliament with an opportunity to discuss technical and regulatory aspects of smart homes with acatech Executive Board member Claudia Eckert and the chair of the Expert Panel Autonomous Systems’ Smart Homes Working Group, Johannes Hauck. At the June event, deputies debated the mobility of the future with Kirstin Hegner of UnternehmerTUM and the Munich Transport Corporation’s Gunnar Heipp.

At an in-house workshop in November, Michael Vorländer (head of the CDU/CSU parliamentary party’s research unit), Christoph Schoppe (research assistant to the SPD’s research policy spokesperson, Bundestag deputy René Röspel) and Andreas Meyer (Committee for Education, Research and Technology Assessment ) took part in a discussion with acatech staff members about how and on which topics the academy can support policymaking processes with advice about the technological sciences. They agreed to continue these discussions in 2018. 

In December, the second Pariser Platz speech was given by Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker. He outlined a vision of a “new enlightenment” that establishes a balance between prosperity and sustainability. The event was organised by the Anrainergemeinschaft am Pariser Platz, an association of organisations located on Berlin’s Pariser Platz that includes acatech among its members.

At the end of June, a group of HR directors and academics belonging to the HR Working Group established by acatech and the Jacobs Foundation presented the acatech DISCUSSION “The Future of Work in the Digital Transformation” at the Federal Chancellery (see Education and Skilled Professionals). The future of work is also the key theme of Science Year 2018, in which acatech is actively engaged.

Trade fairs and conferences

acatech had its first ever stand at CeBIT in 2017, featuring a display on autonomous systems. The Expert Panel Autonomous Systems (High-Tech Forum), chaired by Henning Kagermann, presented the Forum’s report to Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel and Federal Minister of Education and Research Johanna Wanka at the acatech stand.

Following on from this, the forum Lernende Systeme – Germany’s Platform for Artificial Intelligence was founded at the High-Tech Forum’s final meeting in May. This new platform is chaired by Johanna Wanka and acatech President Dieter Spath. It brings together representatives of academia, industry, government and civil society to work on topics in the fields of robotics and artificial intelligence.

BU: Left to right: Wolfgang Wahlster (CEO of the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence), Reimund Neugebauer (co-chair of the High-Tech Forum and President of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft), Johanna Wanka (Federal Minister of Education and Resea

Left to right: Wolfgang Wahlster (CEO of the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence), Reimund Neugebauer (co-chair of the High-Tech Forum and President of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft), Johanna Wanka (Federal Minister of Education and Research), Dieter Spath (acatech President), Georg Schütte (State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Education and Research) and Ralf Klinkenberg (RapidMiner GmbH).

At the Hannover Messe in April 2017, the academy and the German National Platform for Electric Mobility, which is coordinated by acatech, presented target scenarios for the future of industry and transport. The “Industrie 4.0 Maturity Index” met with particular interest among members of the media and business community. acatech also presented its “Guide to the Smart Service Welt” and the “German Standardisation Roadmap Electric Mobility 2020”. As one of the Federal Government’s strategic initiatives, “smart services” (i.e. digital connectivity of goods and services) was also one of the themes of the Digital Summit in June.

The academies of science jointly presented their work at the Wissenswerte 2017 in Darmstadt, a conference for science journalism and communication . Holger Wormer (TU Dortmund University) presented and discussed the results of the joint academy project on science, the public and the media, in which a joint academy working group investigated the influence of social media on science communication.

acatech Academy Day

The acatech Academy Day 2017 was held in Wiesbaden in May. This year, its theme was new prospects for cybersecurity. The event was filmed by ARD-alpha and subsequently broadcast in November. acatech’s 2017 Annual Meeting in October featured an address by the outgoing Bundestag deputy and education policy expert Heinz Riesenhuber. The Annual Meeting addressed the innovation policy themes that will occupy the new parliament.

Getting people talking about technology

Providing advice to citizens and engaging in a dialogue with the public is an increasingly important part of acatech’s work. The academy seeks to make scientific expertise publicly accessible and to facilitate dialogue through a range of different formats and partnerships. All of acatech’s publications are of course freely available at no cost. Moreover, in 2017 acatech launched a second Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), this time on Machine Learning (in conjunction with the DFKI Deep Learning Competence Center).

In 2017, acatech and the Zeidler-Forschungs-Stiftung ran the second TECHNIKENTDECKER schools competition under the patronage of Bavarian State Minister of Education, Science and the Arts, Ludwig Spaenle. The competition is aimed at 14-16 year-olds, with prizes awarded for short films that take a creative look at technology.

The PUNKT prize for technology journalism and technology photography once more attracted a record number of entries. In the multimedia category, the jury’s vote went to the Süddeutsche Zeitung’s online report “Der Facebook-Faktor”. Sven Döring was also a winner for his single image “Grundlagenforschung” (Basic Research) from the photo series “Unsichtbares sichtbar machen” (Making the Invisible Visible). The acatech photography grant was awarded to freelance photographer and photojournalism student David Carreño Hansen for his project proposal “Technischer Fortschritt bei Alltagstechnologien” (Technological Progress in Everyday Technologies).

In its acatech am Dienstag (acatech on Tuesday) events, acatech invites people to debate topical, prominent and in some cases controversial technology issues. The discussions at the acatech Forum on Munich’s Karolinenplatz are aimed at interested members of the public. The topics discussed at this year’s Tuesday evening events included the future of road transport and traffic, technology and science communication in the digital age, high-tech food & plain cooking, and 3D printing.

The joint academy project Energy Systems of the Future (ESYS) and the HUMBOLDT-VIADRINA Governance Platform organised three trialogues on topics connected with the energy transition. The trialogues bring together government, industry, civil society organisations, academia and the media.

A workshop on art and technology at the acatech Forum explored why innovation and creativity belong together. In 2017, acatech also launched the dialogue series “Innovation and Responsibility” in association with the Evangelische Akademie Tutzing. The events addressed the themes of civic responsibility and the energy transition, and genome editing

In its first joint event with the nearby Amerikahaus, acatech compared Germany and America’s innovation cultures in a debate entitled “Silicon Valley meets German Gründlichkeit”. The academy also cooperates with the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities. At the end of November, the two academies ran a Science Slam at the Münchner Wirtshaus in the Bavaria Park. The event was a full house, with two joint winners eventually being chosen by the audience. In addition, a series of dialogue events in Munich and other parts of Bavaria was organised by the technology communication team.

As well as providing advice to government and the public, acatech also seeks to include them in its own work from an early stage. Accordingly, the academy invites advisory committees to discuss the topics and goals of its new projects early on in their development. In 2018, acatech will launch the “acatech HORIZONS” technology field analysis series (see Innovation Policy Advice). The publications in this series will provide a concise and easy-to-understand discussion of new technologies whose impact on society is not yet fully understood. The overall concept and the topics for the first technology field analyses were discussed in November by an advisory committee comprising 23 individuals from academia, industry, government, the field of technology communication and the start-up scene. The first publication in the acatech HORIZONS series is scheduled for the end of 2018. It will investigate the applications, impacts and social questions associated with blockchain technology.