Constant dropping wears the stone

Innovation through venture shaped Wolfgang Hanrieder's professional life and helped him gain invaluable international experience in the areas of technology and investment. Today, he continues to invest "venture capital" with the establishment of the Hanrieder Foundation for Excellence under the auspices of the Max Planck Foundation. The foundation's aim is to provide support for talented young scientists.

The Latin proverb gutta cavat lapidem is Wolfgang Hanrieders guideline. He is guided by ambitious goals, which can be attained through skill, courage and, above all, persistence. He believes that society's future lies in qualifying the generations to come. Moreover, this is precisely where he sets out to make a difference: for young scientists "who are already outstanding and for whom extra support would make it possible to do something that might be unattainable otherwise ".

Research has always played a major role in Wolfgang Hanrieder's life. He studied physics at the Technical University of Munich where Max Planck Directors often give lectures at the time. They included the renowned elementary particle physicist Gerd Buschhorn. Buschhorn offered him the chance of embarking on a scientific career at CERN, which researches the structure of matter with the help of large particle accelerators. The offer made Hanrieder's heart beat faster and he was very tempted by it. However, he ultimately accepted an offer to work at the Siemens AG research centre where he was able to bring his scientific knowledge and interests to bear on tasks of a more applied nature. There he went on and familiarized himself with the structure of strategic business models, represented Siemens-Nixdorf in the USA and then availed of the opportunity to complete an MBA as a Sloan Fellow at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

The crucial move to the investment sector followed. He became managing partner of an international venture capital company and focused on investments in Silicon Valley and other business centres in the USA – right into the hype phase for venture capital in the late 1990s. It was the exchange platform for the best business ideas, top-ranking CEOs were flocking to it and vast sums were collected for technology start-ups. Hanrieder was only in his late thirties.

Then a new offer landed from a leading global private equity firm to develop its European business from London. With his experience in the EU and the USA, Hanrieder was exactly the right man for the job and he went on to support medium-sized technology leaders in their growth and acquisitions for seven years.

This strategy won me over: Deploying limited resources for optimal effect – also when promoting scientific topics and talents.

- Wolfgang Hanrieder

During this time, Hanrieder was already working with the corporate law firm P+P Pöllath + Partners, a connection he revived on his return to Germany. Reinhard Pöllath's social-policy commitment also led him back to his roots, back to the Max Planck Society and his interest in physics. Through becoming a Supporting Member of the Max Planck Society and as a sponsor, he came in touch with the annual donation projects in which even relatively small amounts of money can make a big difference – this appealed to him. He also discovered that the Max Planck Foundation was very well positioned and often able to make a crucial difference through its private funding of prestigious projects by enabling them to attract public funding or to ensure that even better use is made of it: "I was convinced by the concept. A good strategy means using limited resources for optimal effect – also when promoting scientific topics and talents."

The Max Planck Foundation combined the activities of promoting top quality research and professional financial investment. Hanrieder met people on the Max Planck Foundation's investment committee with whom he had already enjoyed trusting cooperative relationships. As he had often observed over the course of his career, "people make the difference". He is optimistic: "It would be wonderful if patronage regained the prominent social value it enjoyed in Germany a good century ago."

Wolfgang Hanrieder now aims to support intellectual achievement through the proceeds of his Hanrieder Foundation for Excellence. Because the Max Planck Society offers "excellence per se", he sees it as an excellent platform for his goal of providing additional support for outstanding young scientists. His foundation aims to support talented young scientists especially from underprivileged backgrounds, including candidates from abroad, by providing subsidies that will close any gaps in the funding available to them for research stays, moving and living expenses. In doing this, Wolfgang Hanrieder aims to contribute to promoting new scientific insights as a raw material for our society and to secure this knowledge as a source of prosperity for the next generation.


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