DWIH: Centres for Research and Innovation

Im Hintergrund eine Großstadt und Geschäftsleute, die Zusammenhalt demonstrieren. Darüber ist per Wasserzeichen eine Weltkarte gelegt, die Vernetzung symbolisiert.
© Getty Images/MarsYu

There are few places in the world that are as intimately associated with innovation as Silicon Valley in California and its surrounding Bay Area. This is also where the German Centre for Research and Innovation (DWIH) San Francisco is based and has pursued one key priority since its opening in April 2022. ‘Our international perspective as a DWIH and our focus on interdisciplinary research, transfer and networking are what differentiate us’, says Dr Zahar Barth-Manzoori, the director of DWIH San Francisco.

A shop window for the German innovation landscape

The DWIH worldwide each add value in their respective innovation landscape – and there are now six of them: DWIH San Francisco is just the latest member of a network that has grown since 2009. It also includes German Centres for Research and Innovation in New York, São Paulo, Moscow, New Delhi and Tokyo. The DWIH act as a ‘shop window’ to jointly represent German academic organisations and research institutions, and thereby to increase the visibility of those driving German innovation. They advise academics and researchers in Germany and establish networks among local protagonists in their host countries. Anyone interested in forward-looking exchange with Germany can find the necessary contacts in one place at each DWIH.

Platforms for intensive cooperation

The DAAD manages these centres using funds provided by the Federal Foreign Office (AA). Its State Secretary Susanne Baumann emphasises that: ‘The DWIH are integral components of our science diplomacy via which we combine academia with foreign policy. We can only manage global challenges from issues like pandemics, climate change and sustainable development by means of intensive cooperation between academia and politics at an international level.’

The DWIH act as platforms for such intense cooperation, and at the same time they promote exchange and networking among alumnae and alumni. ‘We can support them, for instance, if they come up with ideas on how transnational exchange can be leveraged using topics relating to research and innovation’, states Zahar Barth-Manzoori. Along with the American Friends of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, DWIH San Francisco also has an alumni network to actively provide such support. Other supporters that help shape the activities of the DWIH and benefit from them include the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG), the German-American Chambers of Commerce and UAS7, the strategic alliance of seven leading Universities of Applied Sciences (UAS) in Germany.

‘We connect the realms of academia, business and politics.’

Events run by DWIH San Francisco clearly show how this far-reaching networking operates. A forum in May 2022 jointly organised with the Bay Area Council Economic Institute, for example, brought together representatives from consulates and innovation offices. The Bay Area in particular has a concentration of international offices which, like the DWIH, promote exchange leading to innovation. These include Swissnex for Switzerland and the Korea Innovation Center for South Korea.

‘A special feature of the DWIH is that they operate across disciplines’, says Dr Laura Blecken, programme coordinator at DWIH Tokyo. ‘We connect the realms of academia, business and politics.’ As the head of programme activities, Blecken manages the day-to-day operations of DWIH Tokyo, maintains close contact with its advisory board and local Japanese partners, and develops the concepts and agendas for events.

Germany alumnae and alumni in focus

DWIH Tokyo organised an outstanding event format for the first time in 2018: the Japanese-German-French DWIH Symposium On Artificial Intelligence (AI). It was arranged again in 2020 and will be held for the third time in October 2022. This symposium facilitates a high degree of international academic exchange as well as the opportunity to network with personalities from business and politics. The priority of this third AI symposium is firmly on ‘AI for Planetary Challenges in the Anthropocene’. It brings together experts on such multi-layered topics as sustainability, climate change, democracy and healthcare.

‘It is the interchange with our Japanese partners in particular that enables our DWIH to benefit from displaying a continuous presence’, says Laura Blecken. It enables us to attract interesting speakers both from the Japanese community and from the growing German network that supports our DWIH activities. German HEIs have increasingly joined this network in recent years, but business is also represented by members from the federal states of Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia. Laura Blecken sees Germany’s alumnae and alumni as a focus within her DWIH activities, irrespective of specialism: ‘Their time spent in Germany makes them ideal candidates to help us promote German-Japanese exchange.’

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