Federal President Steinmeier: “Isolationism, as we should have learned by now, creates stasis.”
Berlin, 12 October 2023
The main themes of the acatech gala on 10 October in Konzerthaus Berlin were sovereignty within the transformation, and the contribution made by technological innovations. Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier called for an open competition for the best ideas while underscoring the aim of strategic sovereignty.
The evening in Berlin sent out a clear signal for change. More than 700 guests from politics, science, business and society took up acatech’s invitation to attend the gala in Konzerthaus Berlin, including the Federal President and many Members of Parliament and leading figures from the world of science as well as from companies, associations and trade unions.
Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, patron of the National Academy of Science and Engineering, was the keynote speaker and his address centred on issues relating to the transformation. “I think we should align our perspective more with Max Frisch’s and have the confidence as individuals and as a society to be able to shape the future. What this means is to come up with prospects, to broaden the horizon and, indeed, constantly to try new things. We need to do all of these in this time of change in which we find ourselves. Clinging to the past, ignoring shifts, refusing change – that is not an option – especially in an open society like ours. However, as policy makers, business people and scientists, we must control the direction of change!”
He emphasised acatech’s stated objective of strategic sovereignty: “Depending on the sector and technology we are more or less close to achieving this objective. It is a high aspiration but the objective is spot-on. Rather than being driven by technological or geopolitical developments, we must influence, shape or – as I said at the outset – control the direction of these developments!”
At the same time, the Federal President called for openness and international cooperation: “Isolationism, as we should have learned by now, creates stasis. Connection, on the other hand, creates ideas – ideally, competition for the best ideas. With this in mind, I appeal to you to raise your voice against all who advocate isolationism! Raise your voice for a free, open, internationally connected society!”
Using artificial intelligence as an example, Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier called for regulation that is conducive to innovation but geared towards the individual, society and democracy: “Technology will ultimately never – not even AI – be able to achieve better results that are more in accord with the common good than we humans. What is needed for justice, for compromise, for future-oriented decisions – and I am not being anti-technology but expressing my political view – is democracy, people. Therefore smart regulation is needed; regulation that leaves room for innovation, for new possibilities but that also gives equal consideration to the risks like those described for the liberal democracies.”
Speech by the Federal President at the 2023 acatech gala
Jan Wörner, acatech President, responded to the Federal President’s speech. “On behalf of the Academy, thank you for your support and for your input on what acatech and science and engineering can do for the good of our country and its international partners.” He took up the Federal President’s point on the trade-off between cooperation and sovereignty in relation to international competition: “Competition is a driver; cooperation is an enabler. We need both. We are all astronauts on a tiny object in space, Earth. In politically challenging geopolitical situations, too, science and research must create a ‘Bridge over Troubled Water’.”
Speech by acatech President Jan Wörner at the 2023 acatech gala
Marion Merklein gave the 2023 acatech gala a scientific perspective. The manufacturing researcher at the Friedrich Alexander University of Erlangen-Nürnberg is a member of the Rat für Technologische Souveränität. Technological sovereignty requires an understanding of the underlying systems and the ability to control and shape key technologies. However, the most important prerequisite for technological sovereignty is, she said, educated people who are open to technology. For this reason, she called for a greater emphasis on education – from early childhood learning to promoting lifelong learning.
Speech by Marion Merklein (FAU) at the 2023 acatech gala
acatech President Thomas Weber expressed thanks for the trust and dedication of policy makers, scientists, business people and societal organisations. “I would like to see a deepening of these ties and, in particular, closer cooperation between science and business. The Academy must be a compass and a corrective agent to facilitate and realise the transformation through technological innovation. Strong research combined with innovative companies and a policy that is conducive to innovation – this is what acatech and many people in this room are working towards.”
Speech by acatech President Thomas Weber at the 2023 acatech gala
The event in pictures
More on the event (in German)