The Latin proverb gutta cavat lapidem, constant dropping wears the stone, is Wolfgang Hanrieders guideline. He sets himself ambitious goals, and attained them through skill, courage and, above all, persistence. He believes that society's future lies in educating the generations to come. And 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 otherwise unattainable".
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. They included the renowned elementary particle physicist Gerd Buschhorn. Buschhorn offered the young Hanrieder the chance of embarking on a scientific career on the completion of his studies 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. But 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. He 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).
"Using limited resources for optimal effect to promote scientific topics and talent too – that strategy won me over."
- Wolfgang Hanrieder
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 in the middle of 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 being collected for technology start-ups – and Hanrieder was only in his late thirties. Then a new offer landed from a leading global private equity business to develop its European business from London. With his experience in the EU and USA, Hanrieder was exactly the right man for the job and he went on to support mainly medium-sized technology leaders with their growth and acquisitions for seven years.
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 the membership of the Max Planck Society and as a sponsor, he came into contact 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 – to promote scientific topics and talent too."
The Max Planck Foundation combined the activities of promoting top quality research and professional financial investment. And 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". So 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 from underprivileged backgrounds, including candidates from abroad, by providing subsidies that will close any gaps in the funding available to them for research trips and moving and living expenses. In doing this, Wolfgang Hanrieder aims to contribute to promoting new knowledge as a raw material for our society and to providing a secure basis for this knowledge as a source of prosperity for the next generation.