Prof. Fichtner again Executive Director of HIU

October 01, 2021

Since October 1, 2021, Prof. Dr. Maximilian Fichtner once again takes the role of Executive Director at Helmholtz Institute Ulm (HIU). The Board of Directors of the institute is again changing its head after his predecessor Prof. Dr. Stefano Passerini has held the office since October 2018. According to the statutes, a rotation is planned every three years. Prof. Fichtner begins his second term of office as executive director. In 2015 he replaced founding director Prof. Horst Hahn in this position.

Prof. Fichtner, everyone is currently talking about electromobility and battery research. Which research topics relating to electromobility will be the focus of the next three years at the HIU?

Prof. Dr. Fichtner: “The main focus of the HIU is certainly on the topics – “Further” (more storage capacity”),”Faster” (faster loading) and “More sustainable” (without the use of critical raw materials). With regard to the latter point in particular, we are now one of the leading institutions in Europe. Winning the POLiS Cluster of Excellence gave us exceptional opportunities to research batteries that do not use lithium or heavy metals.”

What challenges are you currently facing at the HIU? As at every research institution, there are certainly very own visions, but also problems.

Prof. Dr. Fichtner: “We have to master the challenge that the HIU faces constantly rising costs with the same basic funding. Furthermore, we are slowly getting space problems in the HIU building and – despite very successful third-party funding so far – we cannot continue to grow at the moment.

In general, opportunities arise from the fact that we have developed into one of the most important research institutes in Europe over the past 10 years. This makes it easier to participate in important research projects. Our expertise is unique and we address the most important and pressing questions in our research fields.”

Since October 1st, 2021 you have been “Executive Director” at the HIU again – for the second time. Where do you see your personal role?

Prof. Dr. Fichtner: “My first time as executive director was marked by the strengthening of the Ulm-Karlsruhe association. To this end, we founded CELEST, acquired the POLiS Cluster of Excellence and, as an association, have now reached a central position in the major European initiative BATTERY 2030+.

We have also made efforts to strengthen the HIU by attracting excellent young research groups and to make it better known overall. This was only feasible through the joint effort of all colleagues and was very successful in the end.

It remains to be seen what the new director’s time will bring. We have to keep the HIU stable and lead it into a successful and exciting future with a sustainable program. There are still exciting topics ahead of us.”

What did you particularly appreciate about your predecessor Prof. Dr. Stefano Passerini?

Prof. Dr. Fichtner: “Prof. Passerini is an excellent colleague and scientist of high international stature. He can regularly be found in the list of the most cited scientists in our field. His word carries weight in the community; and this is how he succeeded in taking on an important coordinating role within the framework of the European Energy Alliance (EERA). This contributes a lot to the visibility of our institute.”

A word to the young scientists. One important focus at the HIU is increasingly focusing on the next generation: Which researchers are you looking for at the HIU in the future?

Prof. Dr. Fichtner: “I think it’s scientists who want to make a difference. Scientists who know that they can benefit from the excellent scientific environment and who want to have their time at the HIU clearly on the credit side of their resume. Some come to fill a clearly defined task in a joint project with life, some come with their own ideas. After testing, we give you the opportunity to realize this with us. In this way, we have already started several junior research groups and we are pleased about the high visibility that these groups have already achieved.”

Thank you for the interview, Prof. Fichtner.

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