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Farewell from the longtime FRIAS Board: “I’m leaving with a smile in both eyes”

During a festive ceremony, longtime companions bid farewell to the former director of the FRIAS, Prof. Dr. Dr. h. c. Bernd Kortmann, who has profoundly shaped the development of the Institute over the course of the last nine years.

Building a young Institute from the ground up, enhancing its profile and establishing its place within the research community: This triad of tasks that are already demanding in themselves becomes even more challenging when one lacks personnel and is faced with unsteady financing due to cuts in the budget. That Prof. Dr. Dr. h. c. Bernd Kortmann masterfully navigated these initial turbulences during his nine years as leading director of the Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies (FRIAS) while also transforming this international research college into an example of  best-practice for interdisciplinary platforms supporting cutting-edge research – this is something that everyone present in the anatomy lecture hall on November 2nd could agree on. Around 75 guests had come to send off Bernd Kortmann and his colleagues on the Board of Directors, Prof. Dr. Annegret Wilde and Prof. Dr. Günther Schulze, with a festive ceremony. The new board is now presided over by the Classical Archeologist, Prof. Dr. Ralf von den Hoff who opened the festivities. 


A strategic networker with skill and stamina

“Under Bernd Kortmann, the FRIAS has become an incubator for trailblazing research,” as Prof. Dr. Kerstin Krieglstein, rector of the Albert-Ludwigs-Univeristät, summed up in her opening address. “Being a strategic networker, he persistently advanced the position of the Institute, embedded it deeply into our academic structures and integrated it in internationally renowned research projects.” She added that the popularity of FRIAS is also reflected in the growing number of applications for Fellowships.  

More than 700 top researchers from the humanities, social sciences, life and nature sciences as well as from engineering and medicine have advanced their research projects since FRIAS was founded in 2008. “This purposefully chosen interdisciplinary mix under the direction of Bernd Kortmann created a catalytic environment for elements that otherwise had never come together,” praised Prof. Dr. Gerd Folkers, the chairman of the Steering Committee of the FRIAS.

According to Prof. Dr. Bernd Bukau, the chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board of FRIAS, Bernd Kortmann demonstrated not only impressive skill but also great stamina in getting the Institute off the ground. In all decisions, Kortmann “always valued excellence over proportional representation”. Bukau also thanked all members of the Board of Directors for having created a positive atmosphere and for having accompanied all decision processes in a competent yet reserved manner.


FRIAS as “a nesting ground for new ideas”

The question why international research colleges such as FRIAS can contribute to solving a main challenge of the academic community was the topic of Dr. Oliviert Bouin’s keynote. He is the director of the Réseau français des instituts d'études avancées (RFIEA), as well as the general secretary of the Network of European Institutes for Advanced Studies, NETIAS, and coordinator of the global network UBIAS. One of the answers he gave was the following: “Institutes of this kind are nesting grounds for new ideas. They are at the beginning of the innovation chain, promote the curiosity of researchers and they allow them to conduct their research with the greatest possible freedom. To create something new, research colleges develop collaborative formats through which innovative ways of thinking as well as research areas across disciplines and networks can emerge beyond the fellows’ individual projects.”

And what conclusion does Bernd Kortmann himself draw? “The work at FRIAS has greatly enriched me as a person, particularly with regard to the interdisciplinary and international cooperation. Moreover, my respect for the sciences and for the efforts of researchers has grown steadily over the years. I have achieved my most important goals. Apart from securing the permanent financing of the Institute, another goal included the creation of new formats for the promotion of science.” When asked about his return to the English Seminar he added: “I am leaving with a smile in both eyes. After a cooperative handover to Ralf von den Hoff I know that I am leaving FRIAS in good hands.”

For a more comprehensive insight into the history of FRIAS and into the milestones that have been reached in the last ten years click here. A foto collection of the event you find here.