Annerose Steinke from the Zuse Institute Berlin is Head of Administration at the MODAL Research Campus. In this interview, she explains the particular importance of strategic workshops with regard to the ongoing development of the research campuses.
Ms Steinke, three workshops have been held in two years as part of the Research Campus funding initiative – what role does the accompanying measure play in the strategic development of the research campuses in general and for MODAL in particular?
The workshops are important for us because they provide us with an opportunity to hold in-depth discussions with the other research campuses focussing on a specific topic. Caught up in our hectic work schedules, we often don't have enough time to find out what's happening at the other research campuses. And then, when we meet, it’s always surprising to hear that they are facing similar challenges to us. We get a lot of ideas from the discussion and can learn from one another. The MODAL Research Campus conducts mathematical research and, together with our research and business partners, we develop decision support systems in four labs (energy, health, mobility and optimization of mathematical methods). In this respect, we are different from the other research campuses in that our work is not monothematic. The challenge is to appropriately define and implement, for example, the recommendations from the workshop “Ideas on evaluation processes and on measuring success” for each individual lab.
To what extent have content or ideas from the workshops been incorporated into the strategic development of your research campus?
It varies from topic to topic. Of course, we thought about and drew up conceptual frameworks for the workshop topics, such as “Protection and exploitation of intellectual property rights”, beforehand. In this case, we were in a relatively advanced position to begin with, as it is standard practice in mathematics to licence software instead of registering patents. This is much more difficult for other research campuses because they need to resolve complex patent issues. But we always take away suggestions from the discussion and can use these to review our own position. We hope that, in return, we can also help the others with one issue or another.
Sharing experiences with other research campuses is an inherent part of the workshops – how important is this? Are there any early synergies or interdisciplinary cooperation?
The exchange of experiences is very important for us and we are very grateful that the workshops are held regularly. We have particularly strong connections and share thematic common ground with the research campuses Mobility2Grid in Berlin, STIMULATE in Magdeburg and DPP and FEN in Aachen.
The workshops have covered a wide range of topics so far, from ideas about evaluation processes to strategy development to the exploitation of intellectual property. Which workshop topics do you believe are important in shaping the future development of the research campuses?
The one question that concerns us all is how we can ensure the permanent establishment of the research campuses in the future, independent of funding from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. This is a huge undertaking and one which will require a lot of time and resources. We all need transition periods so that we can gradually move towards becoming independent. At the MODAL Research Campus, we have very good links to our industrial partners. We work together effectively and on a long-term basis. We see eye to eye and our sense of mutual trust has grown, thanks to working in such close proximity to one another. However, every business is subject to financial pressures, which we do not have any influence over. We must continue striving to conclude long-term contracts and to replace completed joint projects with new, future-oriented ones. The market for highly qualified mathematicians is extremely competitive and we need to retain our staff and offer them good prospects. As a result of this, we, as an academic institution, are operating on the market in almost exactly the same way as a business would, which sometimes conflicts with our status as a public institution of the Land Berlin. In this respect, we would like to have more freedom, so that we can continue to work as successfully in the future as we have done up to now.
In your opinion, what are the main benefits of the accompanying measure?
The accompanying measure consistently identifies topics that are of interest to everyone. However, what is more important than this is continuity. We need this exchange of ideas as well as a sense of mutual understanding about what a research campus is today and what it should be in the future. The workshops give us an opportunity to discuss such issues among ourselves, but also to maintain a dialogue with the Federal Research Ministry and the project management agencies. We have an idea of what we want to achieve with the MODAL Research Campus, but we’re excited to see which paths the other campuses will choose to take.