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Dialogue with the political sphere and the public

Communicating complex themes in an accessible and targeted manner

acatech provides a space for dialogue that brings together some of the top minds not only from academia and industry but also from government, the trade unions, foundations, the media and civil society organisations. This dialogue allows them to conceive technology futures and formulate recommendations for policymakers and society. Through its events, competitions, PR work and wide range of partnerships, acatech was able to communicate important ideas about strategic engineering and technology policy issues during 2016.

In so doing, the Academy contributes to thematically complex public debates and policymaking processes. It is conducted in this work by its guidelines for policy advice to government and society which call for excellence and interdisciplinarity in its project work and transparent communication of the results in a way that can be easily understood by a wide audience.

Policy advice: Expertise for evidence-based decision-making

In 2016, acatech once again initiated and supported dialogues on technology policy issues through various events for deputies of the German Bundestag and the Bavarian State Parliament. The “acatech am Mittag” (Lunch with acatech) discussions addressed flexibility concepts for the German power supply up to 2050, successful ways of promoting innovation in SMEs and how to tackle the risks that technology can pose to society. A technical discussion with the Committee on Education, Research and Technology Assessment in December 2016 addressed the impacts of social media on science communication. Meanwhile, in June 2016, acatech discussed how mobility is changing and the associated challenges with members of the Bavarian State Parliament. acatech Members also participated in numerous bilateral discussions, providing scientific expertise to deputies and parliamentary parties.

Engaging with the public: Creating platforms for dialogue

A nation’s capacity for innovation is influenced by public perceptions of technology, industry and infrastructure. Using the examples of fracking, genetic engineering and the chemical industry, representatives of academia, government, industry and the media discussed how public acceptance and opposition are formed and how to ensure an evidence-based debate at a symposium chaired by acatech Executive Board member Ortwin Renn.

The European Commission’s Circular Economy Package provided the theme for a stakeholder conference in Berlin in January 2016 organised by acatech, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, SUN Institute Environment & Sustainability and McKinsey & Company. Experts from industry, academia and government discussed how Germany can benefit from the circular economy principle.

Transparency: Communicating our results as widely as possible

acatech shares the results of its main projects through freely available publications and invites discussion of them at the leading industry fairs, symposia and its own events. At the Hannover Messe in April 2016, the Academy showcased examples of concrete applications for autonomous systems, as well as organising events on its projects Digital Service Platforms and New autoMobility. Other recent project findings were presented to audiences including senior politicians at the 4th National STEM Summit in June and the National IT Summit in November.

The main focus of the Academy Day held in Hannover in May 2016 was on the digitalisation and personalisation of medicine, while human-machine interaction and robotics provided the theme for the acatech Annual Meeting in October 2016, which was attended by Federal President Joachim Gauck.

“In a society that continues to depend on highly advanced technology, we need a deeper understanding of science. That is why I particularly commend the work of your Academy, all its leaders and all the people and institutions that support it. You promote collaboration between different disciplines, you strengthen cooperation with industry and you provide invaluable input to the policy debate. I urge you to build even more bridges with the world of machines. Open up your laboratories and workshops, share your latest findings with everyone, not just the chosen few. We all need your ideas and visions – we need science fiction, in the best, most serious sense of the word.”

Federal President Joachim Gauck in his official address to the acatech Annual Meeting in Berlin in October 2016.

acatech's studies on skills development for Industrie 4.0, the global context of the strategic initiative Industrie 4.0, flexibility options for the energy systems of the future and the debate surrounding the future of science communication all received particular attention from the media. acatech’s Presidents Henning Kagermann and Reinhard F. Hüttl and several of the experts involved in the Academy’s projects contributed to these debates through guest appearances and interviews in the leading media.

A diverse range of formats: Reaching new target groups

acatech is using new formats and partnerships to expand its current range of dialogue platforms. In April and May 2016, the Academy ran its first Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) entitled Hands on Industrie 4.0 in conjunction with the Hasso Plattner Institute. Over 8,000 people enrolled on this five-week online course on the principles of Industrie 4.0. Our next MOOC in March 2017 took an in-depth look at machine learning.

Under the patronage of the Bavarian State Minister of Education, Science and the Arts, Ludwig Spaenle, 2016 saw acatech and the Zeidler-Forschungs-Stiftung announce a new edition of the TECHNIKENTDECKER schools competition, which awards prizes for creative pieces of work about technology. In 2016, the Academy’s PUNKT prize for technology journalism and technology photography was awarded for the written text category. The winners were the journalists Reto U. Schneider (NZZ Folio) for a piece on artificial intelligence and Michael Spehr and Lukas Weber (FAZ) for their entry on smart home technologies.

Launched in the summer of 2016, the acatech am Dienstag (acatech on Tuesday) event series provides a platform for representatives of the scientific community to engage in an open and self-critical dialogue with the public. Once a month, the Academy invites interested members of the public and guests from government, academia, industry and the media to the acatech Forum on Munich’s Karolinenplatz. The topics discussed in 2016 included big data, human-machine interaction, nanotechnology and the role of art in communicating about new technologies.