Jan Wörner elected as President of acatech
Munich/Berlin, 22 March 2021
On 19 March 2021, the Executive Board of acatech – National Academy of Science and Engineering elected Johann-Dietrich (Jan) Wörner as one of the Academy’s two Presidents. Jan Wörner will take up his role alongside co-President Karl-Heinz Streibich with immediate effect. Herr Wörner is an engineer who has previously served as Director General of the European Space Agency (ESA), Chairman of the Executive Board of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and President of TU Darmstadt.
acatech President Karl-Heinz Streibich welcomed Jan Wörner in his new role and thanked outgoing co-President Dieter Spath: “As a civil engineer and science manager, Jan Wörner personifies the technological sciences and their fundamental importance to our country. He strengthened the Technische Universität Darmstadt as a centre of excellence and innovation, gave fresh impetus to the aerospace sector in Germany and Europe, and has been a prominent public spokesperson for the scientific community. Both in a personal capacity and on behalf of the Executive Board and the Academy as a whole, I would like to thank Dieter Spath for his outstanding work as acatech President, and am delighted that he will be remaining with acatech as a member of our Board of Trustees. Dieter Spath brought his personality to bear in developing, leading and shaping acatech’s work programme and structure.”
Jan Wörner stepped down as Director General of the European Space Agency (ESA) in February. Prior to his role at ESA, he held positions as Chairman of the Executive Board of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) from 2007 to 2015 and President of TU Darmstadt. Herr Wörner remained at the helm of the university from 1995 to 2007, and under his stewardship it became one of the first universities in Germany to be granted administrative autonomy. He completed his undergraduate studies and doctorate in civil engineering at TU Darmstadt, and became a professor there in 1990, following stints at the König und Heunisch engineering consultancy and in Japan, where he researched the earthquake safety of nuclear power plants.
Jan Wörner had the following to say about his new position: “I am taking on the role of acatech President at a time that brings to mind the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: As for the future, your task is not to foresee it, but to enable it. This is exactly what the technological sciences and acatech are all about. It is becoming increasingly important not just to create opportunities, but to seize them. This requires a supportive policy framework, a seamless innovation chain for today’s and tomorrow’s markets, and an open society that uses and shapes new technologies in accordance with its own values. As acatech President, I hope to promote this openness and flexibility.”
On relinquishing his role as acatech President, Dieter Spath remarked that “acatech is a place where people freely give their time and expertise to make things happen by driving technological and social innovation. This collaboration with knowledgeable and creative individuals has always been and remains the main source of motivation for engaging in the demanding work undertaken by the Academy. I will continue to contribute to this work as a scientific Member and member of the acatech Board of Trustees. It is extremely reassuring to be handing over the presidency to Jan Wörner, who has an outstanding track record as both an engineer and a science manager.”
Dieter Spath has been an influential figure within acatech ever since the Academy was founded – as a scientific Member, member of the Executive Board, Vice-President and, since 2017, as one of acatech’s two Presidents. He helped to make acatech an organisation that promotes cooperation between science, industry, government and the general public, with a structure based on interdisciplinary thematic networks, projects and platforms. Under his presidency, acatech established clear quality management guidelines for its project work. He also led several projects on the topics of work, education, production, the city of the future and mobility. As well as providing advice to policymakers, Dieter Spath strengthened public dialogue initiatives such as the “acatech am Dienstag” (acatech on Tuesday) events and the “acatech HORIZONS” publications. Throughout his presidency, he championed the systematic promotion of gender equality in the technological sciences – acatech now has its own gender equality strategy and action plan, and has been awarded the Total E-Quality Award.