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3rd Parliamentary Evening: A Focus on the “Smart Rail Connectivity Campus”, the “HZwo” Cluster of Innovation and the Vocational School Teacher Training Programme

On 6 May 2019, Chemnitz University of Technology spoke once again with state government representatives in Dresden

The focus of the 3rd Parliamentary Evening at Chemnitz University of Technology on 6 May 2019 was on two relatively new principal projects of the university, as well as vocational school teacher training.

The two noteworthy projects are the “HZwo – Driving Saxony” Cluster of Innovation and the Smart Rail Connectivity Campus (SRCC). The primary goal of the “HZwo” is the establishment of a value-added network for hydrogen fuel cell technology in Saxony. The SRCC is a conceptual project that is unique in Europe, in which sustainable and highly automated mobility is researched and a new research campus is established in Annaberg-Buchholz.

“Within a very short period of time, both projects have been able to form extremely large networks among science, industry, society and politics. This project represents cutting-edge research in the Free State of Saxony. Its application is highly relevant to our region, and it offers great potential for the economy and society as a whole,” said Prof. Dr. Gerd Strohmeier, President of Chemnitz University of Technology, in his opening remarks.

Another highlight of the evening was the mention of a possible vocational school teacher training programme at Chemnitz University of Technology. “We are currently examining a cost-neutral establishment of a vocational school teacher training programme at Chemnitz University of Technology, in cooperation with TU Dresden,” said Strohmeier. An attempt will be made at finding a solution, however it will not consist of dismantling and rebuilding existing programmes at the university alongside the vocational school programme. “If something additional is to be desired, then it must be provided for at the level of state government,” said the university president. In addition, enrolment numbers in the vocational school teacher training programme will have to be incorporated into the existing structure of the university, or ideally, an upper limit on enrolment numbers would have to be waived.

Chemnitz University of Technology is an important driver of innovation

Opening remarks were given by Matthias Rößler, President of the Saxon State Parliament, and Uwe Gaul, State Secretary, Saxon State Ministry for Higher Education, Research and the Arts.

The President of the State Parliament, Dr. Matthias Rößler, made it clear that there is a clear appreciation for the tradition that is taking place at these Parliamentary Evenings, where the university and the political sphere exchange ideas. Rößler also emphasised that the university’s focus on the “transfer of innovative ideas into the region” is of the utmost relevance. As a focal point for transfer, Chemnitz University of Technology stands at the forefront. In addition, the “creation of a value-added network in one’s own country” is a very important goal. The president of the state parliament emphasised that the university is an important driver of this goal and is looking forward to the upcoming “SRCC” campus in Annaberg-Buchholz.

Uwe Gaul, State Secretary, Saxon State Ministry for Science and the Arts, stressed that transfer is of vital importance in the interplay between science, research and the business sectors, and that it requires platforms, clusters and networks. In the area of transfer, Chemnitz University of Technology is “very successful”, according to Gaul. The SRCC and HZwo are committed to ecological and economic sustainability.

Chemnitz University of Technology also brings together “advancement in research with advancement in practice”. Accordingly, the SRCC should develop into a leading center for research, development and testing in the innovation field of intelligent rail transport. It also strives to establish itself as an open innovation and network platform in the Annaberg-Buchholz area, thus making the region a “driver of innovation” in the field of sustainable and automated mobility.

An “equally innovative and future-oriented project” is the HZwo Cluster of Innovation. Hydrogen research is a field with a “high potential for innovation”, according to Gaul. The Saxon State Ministry for Higher Education, Research and the Arts (SMWK) and the Saxon State Ministry for Economic Affairs, Labor and Transport (SMWA) gladly supported the application submitted to the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi).

In addition, Chemnitz University of Technology is very successful in its so-called “Third Mission”, meaning, the focus of the university on society and cooperation with external partners.

Hydrogen is the fuel of the future

The opening remarks were followed by keynote speeches by Prof. Dr. Thomas von Unwerth, Chair of the Professorship for Advanced Powertrains at Chemnitz University of Technology and Chair of the HZwo Cluster of Innovation, Prof. Dr. Uwe Götze, Vice President for Transfer and Academic Qualification at Chemnitz University of Technology, and Prof. Dr. Maximilian Eibl, Vice President for Academic and International Affairs at Chemnitz University of Technology.

Prof. Dr. Thomas von Unwerth gave a presentation on the HZwo Cluster of Innovation. He stressed the high relevance of hydrogen technology in regards to the Federal Government’s goals within sustainable electromobility and impact on the climate. Hydrogen, if produced “green”, is the fuel of the future. Its high energy density and fast refueling capabilities make it a prime candidate. Investments in refueling infrastructure are “initially quite expensive”, but would “quickly relativise if sufficiently distributed”. In order to keep up on an international scale – von Unwerth pointed to high investments in hydrogen fuel cell technology in China – basic research needs to be immediately supported. For this reason, a central goal of the HZwo Cluster of Innovation is to set up an “integrated net-value network for hydrogen fuel cell technology”. Von Unwerth made it clear: “We have to create instruments that bundle together the existing centers for fundamental hydrogen research” and thus achieve results and progress more effectively. Transfer, research and practical application need to go together hand-in-hand.

This should lay the foundation for the long-term development of a high technology cluster in Saxony.

A guiding light for sustainable and highly automated mobility

Prof. Dr. Uwe Götze made a presentation to the guests about the Smart Rail Connectivity Campus (SRCC). Götze reported that, in addition to the joint project “Smart composites ERZgebirge” (SmartERZ), the SRCC recently successfully prevailed in the final stage of a two-stage process of the programme “WE! - Change through Innovation in the Region”, funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), and have received support to the tune of a million euros. The university vice president said that the SRCC was highly relevant because, among other reasons, it “can make a decisive contribution towards making mobility more sustainable”. For this purpose, the SRCC brings together partnerships from science and industry both in the region and nationally. Chemnitz University of Technology and the Fraunhofer Institutes IWU and ENAS, in cooperation with companies and actors in the region, will become “drivers of innovation for sustainable and automated mobility in Saxony”, and serve as a “guiding light” of the pilot project. He hopes that the campus in Annaberg-Buchholz will in ten years’ time be a “leading European development and testing location” in the field of highly-automated and digital rail transport. “We want to create something unique here,” emphasised the Vice President for Transfer and Academic Qualification at Chemnitz University of Technology.

Primary school teacher training very much in demand – a cost-neutral introduction of vocational school teacher training will be examined

Finally, Prof. Dr. Maximilian Eibl gave an overview of current developments and future challenges in teacher training at Chemnitz University of Technology. He referred to the attractiveness of the current primary school teaching programme at the university, which is currently very much in demand, with more than 900 applications received. With regard to vocational school teacher training, the university is currently examining a cost-neutral introduction in partnership with TU Dresden. He emphasised that once again, a possible introduction cannot be at the expense of other areas.

The subsequent reception provided ample opportunity to reinforce key points of the evening’s conversation.

Note: Contributions can be made via the twitter feed of Chemnitz University of Technology, by using the hashtag #TUCPA19.

(Author: Matthias Fejes / Translation: Jeffrey Karnitz)

Matthias Fejes
10.05.2019

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