Luft: "You believe in the power of science to bring nations together"

Speech by Christian Luft, State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, on the occasion of the Farewell Event for Iain Mattaj, Director General of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg.

Professor Mattaj,

Professor Heard,

Mr Vuorio,

Professor Cramer,

Professor Di Lauro,

Professor Leptin,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honour for me to address you here today. Professor Mattaj, I have heard many great things about you! I would like to thank you most sincerely for the many years of excellent cooperation with my Ministry. Over the years, you have made a decisive contribution to the powerful positioning of EMBL. And, as far as I can tell from the outside, it has always been in a pleasant working atmosphere.

There are not many people who radiate such an aura of friendly calm while initiating so many new projects as you do, Professor Mattaj. We have already heard about the many new member states in your period of leading the EMBL. And it is not only scientific excellence that is so important to you. You believe in the power of science to bring nations together, and you live by this belief.

Cooperation and networking, not creating barriers and separation: these are also the fundamental principles of Germany’s science policy in the international arena. These principles also include a clear commitment to academic and scientific freedom. It should go without saying that a society can only remain open, innovative and successful as long as it guarantees the freedom of researchers and lecturers.

We need bridges across national borders. Science and research have always created ties between nations. This is all the more important at a time of growing nationalism in so many places. We must learn to act together on the basis of democratic principles.

We can only solve today's global challenges if we work together. We will fail if we try to go it alone and pursue a ‘one nation first’ approach.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We want to create the conditions to ensure healthy lives for all, worldwide. This is number three of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

The 1600 staff at the six EMBL sites provide an important contribution to achieving this goal in performing basic research in the life sciences.

EMBL’s contribution to science has a worldwide reputation. It is possible to say that the paths of nearly every European Nobel prize winner in the life sciences have crossed the EMBL or EMBO at one time or another.

I am delighted that Germany has been able to contribute to this reputation as its host country and will continue to do so in the future. Just as we did at the founding of the EMBL in 1974, we in Germany again give our unqualified commitment to the achievement of its goals. We contribute around twenty percent of the basic budget and are currently providing an additional amount of almost 30 million euros.

We will do it in the form of a voluntary special payment for the establishment of a new training and user centre for light microscopy here at the Heidelberg campus.

The foundation stone of the Imaging Center will be laid next year. I am convinced that this will be money well spent.

Education, science and research are not an end in themselves. They all serve society. They help provide solutions for global challenges, contribute to the health of people and nature, and help create jobs for the future. For this, we need targeted research and bold innovation in Germany and Europe, whether in basic science or practical applications.

Professor Mattaj, over the past decades you have made a decisive contribution to advancing the development of research in the life sciences – both for Europe and for research in Germany.

It is one of your great achievements that EMBL, as an intergovernmental organization now occupies a firmly established place in the German science landscape. You were the initiator and driver of so many productive collaborations with universities and other, non-university partners in Germany. With your life-affirming personality and your untiring dedication you have made a decisive contribution to intercultural understanding as well as the promotion of young scientific talent.

I therefore thank you most warmly on behalf of the Federal Republic of Germany. I wish you all the best in your new task. At the same time I wish Professor Heard a successful start together with EMBL.

At least: We are very proud of EMBL. We are very proud of all the people working here. I hope you will keep the fire burning.

Thank you very much.