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Go to Siemens in your region
Sputnik Shock and the Education Crisis
Thanks to the “Sputnik shock” and the “education crisis” Germany’s education system was subjected to public criticism in the 1960s. Henri Nannen, who was the Editor in Chief of Stern magazine at that time, joined in the criticism, but he didn’t leave it at that. He launched an initiative to support highly qualified young scientists in the Federal Republic of Germany – an initiative called Jugend forscht that rapidly garnered broad public support. Nannen called for young people to participate in the program, which opened in December 1965. The program’s motto was, “We’re looking for the researchers of tomorrow!”
The model for this initiative came from the USA, which already had a long tradition of science fairs in schools and colleges. In these competitions, which were organized in the style of trade fairs, young people presented their research projects and inventions not only to juries of experts but also to the general public.
Partners from Business and Science
From the very start, Nannen received strong support for the idea of organizing science fairs in Germany as well. Several major companies became sponsors of the competitions in the individual federal states. In so doing, they began a tradition that continues today: States organize the competitions, endow awards, and promote additional activities such as meetings of former participants. For more than five decades, this concept has been a key recipe for the competition’s success.
Today Jugend forscht is supported by approximately 250 partners from Germany’s business and science communities. In every annual round, a total of 116 competitions are held at the regional, state, and national levels.
Jugend forscht generates enthusiasm. This is where Germany’s smartest young people come together and engage in a competition with their ideas.
Joe Kaeser, Siemens CEO
Steadily Increasing Registrations
Initially, participants came from traditional science subjects taught in schools and universities: biology, chemistry, mathematics, and physics. A category focused on technology was added in 1968. One year later it was joined by geological and space sciences, and from 1975 researchers studying the world of work could also apply. The latter category was primarily meant to attract young trainees and apprentices to the competition.
Ever since Henri Nannen launched Jugend forscht in 1965, the competition has steadily increased its popularity. Whereas only 244 boys and girls participated in the first annual round, by 1971 the number of participants exceeded the one-thousand mark. And this year, more than 12,000 young researchers have registered from throughout Germany for the 52nd annual round. Almost 39 percent of them are girls, thus setting a new record. In 1966 girls accounted for only eight percent of participants. Over the past five decades, a total of more than a quarter of a million talented young people have participated in Germany’s best-known competition for up-and-coming researchers.
“Jugend forscht generates enthusiasm,” says Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser. “This is where Germany’s smartest young people come together and engage in a competition with their ideas. It’s a wonderful forum that inspires people and may enable us to discover some future inventors who could end up at Siemens.”
It’s understandable that Siemens considers its sponsorship a good platform for finding talented future employees and attracting them to the company. That has been its policy for decades. This year the company will be sponsoring the national final round for the third time, after having previously served in this capacity in 1976 and 1997. Among other things, the sponsorship is a way for Siemens to present itself as an attractive and future-oriented employer that offers interesting jobs for outstanding young inventors and researchers in the areas of mathematics, information technology, natural sciences, and technology (MINT) — people whose creativity and imagination make future innovations possible.
Former National Winner is this Year’s Contact Person
Siemens was represented in its role of sponsor of the 52nd national final round by Dr. Frank Anton, who is now turning the vision of electric flying into reality at Siemens Corporate Technology. Anton himself was the 1975 national winner of Jugend forscht in the field of technology. “Jugend forscht is great,” says Anton. “Young researchers have creative and innovative ideas, but they have reached their goals only by tenaciously persisting with their topics. This is what gives them the self-confidence they will need in order to come up with scientific answers and technological solutions for difficult issues in the future. We at Siemens have learned to listen to young researchers. Their self-confidence will serve as the basis of our company’s success in the decades ahead.”
Siemens was sponsoring 2017' Jugend forscht national competition. As the representative of Siemens’ sponsorship, you were your company’s most important contact person for this competition. What’s your personal connection with Jugend forscht?
Anton: I participated in Jugend forscht in 1975, when I submitted an apparatus for decoding Morse code. That year I became the national winner of Jugend forscht in the field of technology. But that’s not all. I also received a very personal award at the competition. That’s where I met my future wife, with whom I’ve now been happily married for 38 years. I can certainly say that the competition changed my life.
Why is Siemens sponsoring the competition this year?
Because there are lots of similarities between Jugend forscht and Siemens. Young researchers have creative and innovative ideas — and that’s exactly what characterizes our company. These brainy people work with tremendous dedication to reach their goals. And the main thing they learn in the process is something I also learned back in 1975: They acquire the self-confidence they need in order to find a scientific answer or a technical solution for a difficult question. We’re always looking for people like that at Siemens.
Throngs of young people will come to Erlangen at the end of May for the national round of the competition. What do you think their key take-away about Siemens should be?
I’d like them to see how innovative and fresh we still are after 170 years of corporate history, and how we are preparing ourselves for the next 170. I want them to experience how much fun it is to work at Siemens.
The city of Erlangen demonstrated its farsightedness early on by welcoming a Siemens complex that began with only two employees but has gradually expanded over the years to become a major center of expertise for the company. Thanks to its ideal infrastructure, Erlangen has developed from a small town to a key center of industry and education in northern Bavaria. Siemens’ extensive city campus has not only played a major role in shaping the city’s physical profile, but has also significantly changed Erlangen’s economic and social structure.
A successful partnership
Erlangen and Siemens are bound by a long tradition that will soon be a century old. The Siemens complex in Erlangen, which employs more than 23,000 men and women, is one of the company’s major hubs and one of its biggest locations worldwide. It has received numerous awards as an important research and development center, and it has a well-established program for supporting talented young people. Siemens currently has almost 1,000 trainees in Erlangen. As well-qualified specialists, they can be expected to contribute significantly to the future of the local and regional economy, as well as to Siemens.
An investment in the future
Siemens will continue to invest in Erlangen in coming years. Indeed, by 2030, the company expects to complete a new 54 hectare campus that will combine future-oriented office, laboratory, and research workplaces with residential units and leisure facilities.
Picture Credits: from top: 1-3, 5-12 Stiftung Jugend forscht e.V.
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