24 January 2008, No. 02/2008

Helmut Schwarz: "We are looking for researchers who are playmakers."

New President of the Humboldt Foundation presents his objectives

The new President of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Professor Dr. Helmut Schwarz, presented his objectives for the presidency at a press conference in Berlin today. "I am looking forward to communicating in an international researcher network of more than 23,000 Humboldtians worldwide and to the challenge of maintaining, using and extending this network against strong international competition," Schwarz commented.

By adhering to clear principles of excellence and exclusively promoting outstanding individuals, the Foundation had found the right formula. "Nowadays, research is a team sport. But to be really successful you need playmakers, outstanding individuals who drive the team forward. And this is precisely where we are placing even greater emphasis in future with the Alexander von Humboldt Professorship which has been endowed by the Ministry of Research and is valued at up to five million euros," Schwarz commented. "In this way, we make it possible for up to ten German universities to recruit top-rank international researchers every year and to develop teams and structures in German research that are internationally competitive."

Spectacular excellence programmes notwithstanding, the Humboldt Foundation was not about to forget what was also, indeed above all, the very essence of its work: promoting young talents, international understanding, and development, Schwarz emphasised. "Humboldt Fellowships are the rock we're built on. We're not talking millions of euros for one single person. This is about 600 young research talents coming to Germany every year. They are tomorrow's stars. Many of them go on to brilliant careers in research, like my colleague, Robert Grubbs, who won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2005. He had a Humboldt Fellowship when he was a very young man. This just goes to show that we promote excellent people at a very early stage in their careers. Other fellows go into politics and later become ministers, presidents of constitutional courts, academic advisers or even heads of state, like our Hungarian alumnus, Laszlo Solyom. The question is: how do we recruit the Laszlo Solyoms and the Robert Grubbs' of tomorrow? Or the most talented researchers from developing countires? Ensuring that the best and most creative minds with the greatest potential continue applying to us is one of the major aims of my work and our duty to the ministries that finance us, the Foreign Ministry and the Federal Ministry for Cooperation and Development," said Schwarz.

Well-endowed fellowships and awards on their own were not enough to recruit either young or established academics, Schwarz emphasised. "We have to see researchers as part of a creative class who are internationally sought-after and for whom living conditions are decisive. They want a comprehensive package: top laboratories, but also culture, security and high quality of life. Just how successful Germany is in this context is shown by our application figures. They are a seismograph of trends in the global science market and of Germany's pulling power," Schwarz thought. The Foundation would continue to do its utmost to ensure that its fellows and award winners felt happy in Germany. After all, satisfied alumni were also the best ambassadors and advertisement for the research location. "Coming from 23,000 Humboldtians, recommendations by word of mouth can achieve a great deal, and they are our contribution to the image campaign which is making Germany ever more successful," Schwarz commented.

The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation 

The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation annually enables more than 1800 researchers from all over the world to spend time researching in Germany. The Foundation maintains a network of some 23,000 Humboldtians from all disciplines in 130 countries worldwide - including 40 Nobel Prize winners.


Kristina Güroff
Barbara Wieners-Horst
Kerstin De Giorgio
Press and Communications
Tel.: +49 228 833-144/257
Fax: +49 228 833-441

Georg Scholl
Head of
Press and Communications
Tel.: +49 228 833-258
Fax: +49 228 833-441