Published: 14 October 2019, 14:00 | By: Axel Burchardt
The Carl Zeiss Foundation is awarding Friedrich Schiller University Jena 18.4 million euros to build two communication centres and thus strengthen the work of the Jena Science Network.
Communication and encounters are fundamental to science: discussions between scientists and with the business community and society open up new perspectives and lead to innovation. To enhance this communication further in the Jena Science Network, two centres are to be built: the FORUM in the town centre, next to the Main University Building, and the FOCUS at the Beutenberg Campus. These new projects have been made possible mainly thanks to the funding from the Carl Zeiss Foundation – one of the largest individual grants made to Friedrich Schiller University.
In the Jena network, science, business, the municipality and society have worked together closely for a long time. The new dynamics of this site, borne of the successes of past years, have created a need for dedicated hubs in order to strengthen this network further and drive it forward in a clear direction.
“In recent years, Jena has become an internationally recognised magnet for top-level research and young talents from around the world. However, alongside excellent new buildings for research and cutting-edge technology, we also need open and centrally located spaces for a dialogue between disciplines, intercultural encounters and a visible ‘welcome culture’,” said Jena University President Prof. Dr Walter Rosenthal as he presented the two communication centres to the press on 14 October.
“With this funding of more than 18 million euros, the Carl Zeiss Foundation is providing Jena with new spaces for academic exchanges and interdisciplinary encounters,” said Wolfgang Tiefensee, Thuringia’s Minister for the Economy, Science and the Digital Society, who as a member of the Foundation’s administration symbolically presented the grant. Among other facilities, the two buildings will contain conference and meeting rooms, a Welcome Center, accommodation for visiting academics, as well as catering services. “Until now, such facilities have been especially scarce on the Beutenberg Campus,” noted Tiefensee. “The funding of the two centres will help to make an attractive and creative environment at the scientific site that is Jena.”
Under the management of the University, two new buildings should be completed by 2024, at a cost of around 12 million euros each. As twin hubs, the two communication centres should encourage academics to enter into discussions with one another and with representatives of business, the municipality and interested members of the public.
“The FORUM will be directly connected with the Main University Building and the new campus that will be constructed on Inselplatz,” said Rosenthal. In the German Excellence Strategy competition, the University of Jena won funding for a Cluster of Excellence and with it, millions of euros in funding. Although there was no funding for the cooperative network JenaVersum (‘JenaVerse’), the project was not abandoned, “but instead it can now also be implemented with support from the Carl Zeiss Foundation, for which we are very grateful to the Foundation,” added Rosenthal. The future JenaVersum, a cooperative network between the University and Jena University Hospital, Ernst Abbe University of Applied Sciences, the municipality of Jena, and industry, will be based in the FORUM. It is intended to be the starting point for coordinated collaboration between all the actors on the site. The new building will also house a Welcome Service, some rooms for visiting academics, rooms for meetings and small conferences, and an underground car park.
“The aim is that it should offer a wide variety of opportunities for people to enter into conversation and develop new ideas,” said University President Rosenthal, adding: “The attractiveness of Jena to the best talents in Germany and abroad will be enhanced and the welcoming culture for science, industry and the city will be expanded.”
The centre in the middle of Jena additionally contains the building in which poet, playwright and professor Friedrich Schiller held his inaugural lecture in 1789. The building is in need of restoration and once it is ready, it will be used – in an allusion to Schiller’s inaugural lecture – to answer the question “What is science and to what end does one practise it?”.
A similar communication centre will be created on the Beutenberg Campus. “In order for us to gain a better understanding of communication between microorganisms, it must be possible for scientists to talk to each other in an uncomplicated way,” said Prof. Dr Axel Brakhage, referring to the topic of the Cluster of Excellence ‘Balance of the Microverse’, of which he is the spokesperson. For the Beutenberg Campus, with its many university, non-university and medical institutes, such a multidisciplinary communication and meeting platform would be of great benefit and would “give further impetus to research”, added Brakhage, who is also Director of the Leibniz Institute for Natural Product Research and Infection Biology.