Opening of the Falling Walls Circle at the Stiftung Brandenburger Tor

Welcoming address by Dr. Georg Schütte, State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Education and Research in Berlin

Professor Mlynek,
Professor Turner,
Your Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

A very warm welcome to this year’s and now fifth Falling Walls Circle.

Remarks on format

As you probably already noticed from Professor Mlynek's remarks, the Falling Walls Circle is truly an exceptional type of gathering. One of its essential characteristics is clearly that no one Circle is like any of the others. The organizational team supporting Professor Mlynek and Professor Turner come up with a new programme every year, thereby keeping the very format innovative.

Candid exchange

However, there is one thing that has not changed over the years, and that is that the Circle gives us the opportunity to exchange our thoughts and ideas very freely and openly. Very little is pre-set; what happens here is very much up to us. Besides – and this is no small feat – we are free of the pressure of having to come up with results this afternoon to be presented to the public. We are here first and foremost to give our thoughts free rein and to hear about each other’s good ideas.

Curiosity as the starting point

So let's get the ball rolling! Let's stay curious, and to quote Galileo Galilei: “Curiosity is always the top priority of a problem to be solved.”

Of course it is the outstanding participants who are the lifeblood of the Circle: high-ranking representatives from various sectors are here today, they've come from universities, academies, industry, the media and government. It is this special mix which makes the Circle so appealing.

We do nevertheless have a goal for our Circle – and that is to discuss Entrepreneurship and Academic Freedom.

Topic 1: Entrepreneurship

It takes science and industry to make technological advances. I am curious to see how these two spheres are connected. But we must also have a look at where the walls between science and industry still exist. In any event, innovations demand a degree of flexibility in these two worlds – willingness on the part of industry to think in terms other than the bottom line on the one hand, and the willingness of science to assume responsibility for its impact on society on the other. There are a few things which are the key to success in both worlds. They are: curiosity, a readiness to take risks, and the will to assume responsibility! Let us put our heads together on how we can encourage these characteristics.

Topic 2: Academic Freedom

As we all know, academic freedom is distributed very unequally around the world. In fact, many countries have erected new walls. Researchers there cannot exercise academic freedom – and may even be risking life and limb. Therefore, it is important to protect the scientific community from the arbitrary use of government power – and thus safeguard its very future. We must ensure, for example, that basic funding does not evaporate and that science is not kept on a short leash. Let’s talk about how we can strengthen academic freedom around the world!

My wish for today is that we remain open and curious – and that we are not afraid of making an occasional mistake. Please do dare to dare!

Karl Popper, the philosopher of science, once said: “Nobody is exempt from making mistakes; the great thing is to learn from them.” On this note, I wish us all an inspiring and very memorable day.

Thank you very much!