The 5th Rhine-Main Universities Day: innovation hub RMU

Innovation through regional cooperation – this was the motto of the Rhine-Main Universities Day 2023. With the theme “Region Matters for U – shaping innovative science together in the Rhine-Main region”, the Rhine-Main Universities (RMU) addressed one of their key objectives, as their strategic focus is not only on cooperations with external players, but also on increased participation of the RMU members. More than 200 participants, from various departments of the Rhine-Main Universities as well as from non-university research institutes, attended the event which was held on behalf of the RMU by the Technical University of Darmstadt on the university’s Lichtwiese Campus.

Photos: Jens Steingässer

The event started with a two-part panel discussion on the topic “Shaping Science in the Rhine-Main Region: A framework for Research, Innovation and (Knowledge) Transfer”, hosted by science and education journalist Jan-Martin Wiarda. During the first panel, Denis Alt, State Secretary at the Ministry for Science and Health in Rhineland-Palatinate, emphasized: “The transfer of knowledge into society is of particular importance in order to put the knowledge that has been generated into practice, and also to foster understanding and acceptance. Nowadays, our own general knowledge is often no longer sufficient to fully understand complex situations and problems such as the Covid pandemic or climate change.”

Ayse Asar, State Secretary at the Hessian Ministry of Science und the Arts, underlined the link between promoting Early Career Researchers and successfully transferring scientific insights into society: “One of the things that make the RMU successful is the promotion of Early Career Researchers. The RMU establishes an ecosystem that helps researchers to establish contacts with the business world at an early stage. 

Michael Huth, Vice President of Goethe University Frankfurt am Main and Volker Mosbrugger, President of the Polytechnic Foundation of Frankfurt am Main, are currently working on the extension of such an ecosystem by developing a first proposal for the “Startup Factories” lighthouse project, which is initiated by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action. Both Huth and Mosbrugger, as well as Tanja Weil from the Institute for Polymer Research Mainz highlighted the many opportunities that a strong regional network offers, especially for young researchers who come to the Rhine-Main Region from all over the world.

The second panel discussion was made up of two members of the RMU Partnership Board, the RMU’s newly established advisory committee, namely Nicole Deitelhoff from the PRIF – Peace Research Institute Frankfurt, and Dieter Fellner from the Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics Research Darmstadt, and three renowned researchers from the RMU, namely Sandra Ciesek, University Hospital Frankfurt am Main, Lisa Hartung, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, and Norbert Pietralla, Technical University of Darmstadt. The five panelists discussed how joint projects can be set up and how cooperations can be managed. They also discussed the advantages a strong scientific region offers for researchers and how, from their point of view, regional cooperation can be further developed and extended.

Concluding the panel discussion, the three presidents of the Rhine-Main Universities drew a positive balance for the RMU. They all agreed that the RMU alliance has generated considerable opportunities already: “We made it possible for students to enroll in all three universities for the RMU degree programs at no additional cost and to take advantage of what the three universities have to offer”, said Georg Krausch, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz. Enrico Schleiff, Goethe University Frankfurt am Main, added that other groups within the universities, including technical and administrative staff, also profit from the RMU alliance. Tanja Brühl, Technical University of Darmstadt, confirmed: “Not only the people within the alliance are convinced of its merits. Local authorities, non-university research institutes and partners from the world of business are also delighted by the alliance of the Rhine-Main Universities. They all benefit from the RMU’s research strength.”

In the afternoon, delegates from the Senates of the three universities came together for the constituent session of the RMU Assembly, another newly established RMU committee. They constructively discussed how to handle joint organizational tasks in a pragmatic manner and how to efficiently reduce bureaucratic hurdles.

All other participants were invited to choose between the workshop “RMU and You – Shaping Knowledge Transfer” and three guided tours in scientific institutions on the Lichtwiese Campus – the ETA Fabrik, the Glass Competence Center and the emergenCITY eHub living lab. Members of the RMU were thus given the opportunity to learn about the various activities within the Rhine-Main Universities, to exchange ideas, to connect and to gain new impulses for their own areas of research or work.

The next Rhine-Main Universities Day will take place at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz in fall 2024.