Bavaria builds on research
Support for the new Max Planck life science campus in Martinsried and the initiative for quantum computing and quantum technologies
Mastering transformation with technology – that is the motto of the Bavarian State Government, whose Hightech Agenda saw Bavaria launch Germany’s only technology offensive of its kind a year ago. With an injection of EUR 2 billion, 1,000 new professorships and 13,000 new university places, the Free State of Bavaria wants to build upon its leading position in research. The Max-Planck-Gesellschaft welcomes the fact that, with the latest cabinet decision of 14 September 2020, significant additional funding is being committed to cutting-edge research, including at Max Planck Institutes.
At a press conference, Bavarian Prime Minister Markus Söder raised the prospect of significant support for the establishment of a life science campus in Martinsried for interdisciplinary and interactive research in the biosciences. On the Martinsried campus, the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft plans to establish a new Max Planck Institute for the Study of Life with a view to pooling and realigning its existing strengths. With an equivalent of 18 Departments, the Institute will be the largest of the Max Planck Institutes and will initially focus on the synthesis of artificial cells and the study of the brain in its natural environment (real-life neuroscience).
If researchers succeed not only in producing completely new cells but also in improving the capabilities of natural cells, it may be possible to solve numerous existing problems, such as the production of energy or material by photosynthesis, the improvement of resistance and the ability to self-repair, or the development of completely new therapies in medicine. “Real-life neuroscience” takes a step forwards from artificial laboratory conditions into the real world in order to study the interaction of brains with one another and with the environment – a topic that is hugely relevant to both medicine and society.
The two focal areas will be complemented by a broad spectrum of biomedical research, and particular efforts will be made to attract researchers who deal with the development of new technologies. This includes key technologies such as molecular design, the 3D printing of biological components, robotics, microsystems technology and artificial intelligence, as well as the development of miniaturised sensors or new, extensive, computer-supported and analytical tools. Machine learning and big data will play a significant role in the modelling of complex systems, such as a cell, a brain or the interaction of brains.
Basic research is the driving force behind applications – and it is important to maintain this “innovation pipeline”. With the new life science campus, Bavaria is laying the foundation for further biotech start-ups such as at the neighbouring Klinikum Großhadern, for modern diagnostics and the treatment of diseases. “In collaboration with the two Munich universities and other academic institutions in Bavaria, the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft wants to achieve international visibility for the research and technology location and to develop the Martinsried campus into a flagship for life sciences in Germany, Europe and beyond,” explains President Martin Stratmann.
In addition, the Bavarian State Government intends to promote the quantum sciences and technologies over the next two years. This includes setting up a Centre for Quantum Computing & Quantum Technologies, as well as the establishment of a Quantum Technology Park. The area of quantum sciences and technologies specifically exploits the properties of quantum physics as a basis for generating new applications in information and communication technology, sensor technology, material sciences and basic research and for opening up new branches of technology in the long term.
“We expect that quantum computers and simulators will be able to solve problems that can’t be computed even on today’s most powerful supercomputers,” explains Klaus Blaum, Vice President of the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. This, he says, could potentially give rise to unprecedented possibilities for the development of new materials with tailored properties, the development of chemical compounds and medications, and applications in the area of machine learning and artificial intelligence.
Operating as a partnership between research and industry, the current programme is intended to cover all aspects of the process – from the basics through to applications. An alliance of non-university research facilities – the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, Fraunhofer and the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities – is teaming up with the leading German universities TU Munich and LMU Munich to found a Munich-based centre in this field that will bring particularly high international visibility to its work on Bavaria-wide activities and therefore also have the potential to recruit the best researchers. At the same time, there will be a targeted effort to build upon the successful basic research into quantum science and technology that led to the establishment of the Munich Center for Quantum Science and Technology, a cluster of excellence funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG).
“With their outstanding educational and research institutions and an efficient high-tech environment, the metropolitan region of Munich and Bavaria as a whole offers extraordinary opportunities to create a unique European centre for quantum sciences and technologies and therefore to position Bavaria as a world leader in this important pioneering field,” says Blaum. As part of the coronavirus stimulus package, the Federal Government has also announced support for quantum technologies, especially with a view to the development and construction of quantum computers. Bavaria is therefore in a good position to benefit considerably from the planned federal funding. The Max-Planck-Gesellschaft has been a strong advocate of both projects.
“We’re delighted to see this strong signal in favour of Bavarian research,” says Martin Stratmann.