The Max Planck Society met in Saarbrücken

The Max Planck Society's 67th Annual Meeting wrapped up with a panel discussion the "Internet of Things"

June 16, 2016

For two day, the Max Planck Society met in Saarbrücken for its 67th Annual General Meeting. In addition to the Directors of the Max Planck Institutes and the Society's Supporting Members, the research organization's main decision-making bodies also assembled. The meeting at the centre of excellence for IT and computer science focused on the topic of digitization. At the end of the event, a panel of experts from various disciplines discussed the opportunities and risks of the “Internet of Things”. Adi Shamir, the leading cryptography expert and Turing Award winner, from the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, Israel, held the introductory keynote lecture on Thursday. President Martin Stratmann opened the evening with a speech about science and society in times of digital change.

President Martin Stratmann opened the Plenary Assembly with a speech about science and society in times of digital change.

In his speech delivered in the festive hall of the former industrial monument “Alte Schmelz”, once a symbol of the mining industry in the Saarland, Stratmann drew a link between the waves of innovation in the era of industrialization and the "current era of change through digitization". Industrialization had not only been fuelled by coal and ore, but also by highly qualified workers who had played a key role in the process, so Stratmann. In addition, at the time, the government had made substantial investments into education."The universities were transformed into international centres of excellence. A new university type was created - the technical universities - and the Kaiser Wilhelm Society was founded as a hub of outstanding scientific performance." The President said that today we were witnessing a similar sea change in our society, the hallmark of a new era. With a view to the science and business location Germany, Stratmann emphasized: "Education and research are more important than ever. We must now make the same concerted efforts as over 100 years ago and create the educational and research institutions, which will provide us with prosperity over the coming decades. We must show equal courage and continue to increase investments into science,” the President said, addressing invited guests from science, politics, and business.

Stratmann also highlighted how digitization is transforming the world of science, and how the Max Planck Society is helping to shape this process. He referred to the established use of artificial intelligence for data analysis for big data projects. In addition, he mentioned existing challenges, such as those for the production of the 'gold' standard open access and thus the enforcement of open access to scientific knowledge. Stratmann went on to say that the increasing digitization also led to some Max Planck Institutes readjusting their research directions, as was the case for example with the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems at the sites in Tübingen and Stuttgart. "In this new institute, we overcome the boundaries between engineering, computer science, and neuroscience. We combine two elements with particularly steep knowledge gradients: Cognitive Robotics and Machine Learning ".

Eminent line-up for panel discussion on the “Internet of Things”

Experts on the panel: Joachim Buhmann, Ulrich Sieber, Dietmar Harhoff, and Adi Shamir (clockwise from top left)

Following on from Stratmann's opening speech, the topic “Internet of Things” became the main focus, the concept that conventional everyday objects will be increasingly connected with one another and with the internet. According to Cisco, the number of interconnected objects worldwide is set to double from 25 billion at present to 50 billion by 2020. The internationally acclaimed cryptology expert Adi Shamir, winner of the Turing Award in 2002 – which is the equivalent of the Nobel Prize in IT – addressed the challenges involved, especially in data security, as a keynote speaker. Shamir, who conducts research at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot in Israel, then explored his theories in greater depth as part of a panel discussion entitled: “The Internet of Things: Opportunities for Innovation – Challenges for Cyber Security. His conversation partners were the Max Planck Directors Dietmar Harhoff, from the MPI for Innovation and Competition, Ulrich Sieber, from the MPI for Foreign and International Criminal Law, and Joachim Buhmann, Director of the Institute for Machine Learning at the ETH Zurich. The discussion will be hosted by Tobias Kollmann, Chair Holder for E-Business and E-Entrepreneurship at the University of Duisburg-Essen.

The scientific opening speech was held on Wednesday evening by Gerhard Weikum, Managing Director of the Max Planck Institute for Informatics. In his presentation in the Günter-Hotz-Lecture hall of the University of Saarland, entitled: ‘What computers know, read and understand’, Weikum provided insights into the research carried out at the institute. Other speakers included the President of the University of Saarland, Volker Linneweber. Afterwards, guests gathered at a reception held in Saarbrücken castle on the invitation of Saarland Prime Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer.

The Max Planck Society's 67th annual meeting, with around 600 participants from academia, politics and business, was dominated by the topic 'The challenge of digitization of our society' as "Saarbrücken provides an ideal backdrop for this major social issue."

While having a profoundly international outlook, the researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Informatics and the Max Planck Institute for Software Systems are also closely integrated into regional research networks, such as the Multimodal Computing and Interaction (MMCI) excellence cluster at Saarland University. The location’s leading position in IT and computer science is also reflected by the imPACT (Privacy, Accountability, Compliance and Trust in the Internet) project, which is being funded by the most valuable prize for basic research in Europe, the ERC Synergy Grant. Research teams led by principal investigators Michael Backes, professor at Saarland University, Peter Druschel and Rupak Majumdar, Directors at the MPI for Software Systems, and Gerhard Weikum, Director at the MPI for Informatics, are developing new models, methods and tools on the basis of analysed security risks to create a secure internet for the future.

Key governing bodies assemble

A central part the AGM are also the meeting of the Max Planck Society’s governing bodies. The Sections discussed their appointment procedures, the Senate and Executive Committee will meet up as well as the Members’ Assembly, made up of Scientific and Supporting Members, which adopted the most recent Annual Report for 2015. In addition to key information and facts, this also contains three reports on research projects from the three Sections – Martin Wikelski, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Radolfzell, outlines new ways of monitoring global animal migratory movement using the ICARUS system in space, a team led by Gerd Leuchs, Director at the MPI for the Science of Light in Erlangen, looks at the state of progress in optical quantum technologies and Ulrich Becker, Director at the MPI for Social Law and Social Policy in Munich, focuses on the prospects of European solidarity in relation to the refugee crisis.


About the Max Planck Society

Around 6000 researchers and around 7,600 postdocs, doctoral students, student assistants and 1400 guest scientists are conducting basic research in the natural, life and human sciences at Max Planck Institutes and research facilities which currently number 83. The Max Planck Society was founded in 1948 as the successor organization to the Kaiser Wilhelm Society which was established in 1911. 18 Nobel Prize laureates have since emerged from its ranks. The Institutes are of international standing and attract leading researchers from all over the world. In addition to five Institutes abroad, the MPG operates a further 16 Max Planck Centers with research institutions such as Princeton University in the US, Sciences Po in France, University College London in the UK and the University of Tokyo in Japan. The Max Planck Society has a total annual budget of around € 1.6 billion with federal government and the federal states each contributing half of its funding.

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