Thought Leader Questions –Dr.-Ing. Frank O.R. Fischer (General Manager and Board Member of DGM)

An Interview about DGM and the role of Dr. Fischer as General Manager

Press: Can you tell us more about DGM, its almost hundred-year-old history and core mission?

Frank O.R. Fischer:“The German Society for Materials Science represents the interests of its members – as guarantor for the systematic structural and human resources development of the fields of materials science and engineering.” This is the mission statement that we have been fulfilling since our founding in 1919 as “The German Society for Metallurgy”, acting as a bridge between science and industry.

As Europe’s largest technical science society for materials science and engineering, we interconnect the best in our fields at, in part, international congresses and symposia; impart the status quo in various disciplines through the provision of further training and seminars; and engage in a consistent development programme for young talent. In our more than 80 technical committees and working groups, we unite and consolidate all relevant partners from research and industry. Through lobbying in Berlin, we ensure that the importance of materials science and engineering is anchored in the consciousness of politicians and the general public. Namely, around 80 percent of all innovative products are based directly or indirectly on materials and engineering innovations.

Press: Can you tell us more about your role as General Manager within the DGM and what this involves?

Frank O.R. Fischer: As the General Manager of the Executive Board, I am above all responsible for the technical, structural and human resources development of the field of materials science and engineering. As in the end, the quality of the materials determines the success of a product and successful products determine the success of a business. Successful businesses create jobs and therefore contribute to the well-being of a country. Germany is doing well economically because we produce excellent materials, from which excellent products can be built. My task is to create the right framework conditions for materials scientists and engineers.

Press: The DGM has some ‘big-name’ partner organisations– how does the DGM benefit from these partnerships and how does DGM campaign for more support?

O.R. Fischer: Materials science and engineering is not held back by either subject matter or country borders. As a representative of its member’s interests, the DGM must be established in an interdisciplinary and international way, as it is of particular importance to gain input from other fields and other countries as well as passing on its own knowhow. We do this in particular through the setting up of large congresses such as the “Materials Science and Engineering” (MSE) or “Materials Week” as well as through national and international collaborations such as the “Metals Trade Association” (WVMetalle) or the “Federation of European Materials Societies“ (FEMS).

Press: Can you tell us about some of the exciting research projects currently taking place at DGM?

Frank O.R. Fischer: The DGM is not a scientific or economic institution, nor is it a research funding association. However, in our technical and community committees, several fora have formed through which researchers and producers can discuss and solve concrete problems in the high-tech fields of the future: mobility, energy, security, health and communications.

We also act as mediator, initiator and advisor for science, industry and politics. An excellent example from recent years is the initiative: “Materials for an Energy Efficient Industry and Society” (MatRessource), which was brought to life by the Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) during the “Materials Innovation for Industry and Society” (WING) programme, in autumn 2010. At our symposia and congresses, we offer the 216 project participants a forum at which to introduce their latest findings regarding resource-saving and environmentally-friendly new technologies. In addition, we oversee the MatRessource sister project “MaRKT” which has set itself the aim, under the guidance of the DGM, to optimally interconnect sponsored projects with the focal topics: substitution and material efficiency, corrosion protection, catalysis and process optimization.

Press: The DGM actively supports and promotes the emergence of young talent in the field of material science – can you tell us more about DGM’s involvement in the promotion of young talent and what DGM offers for the younger generation?

Frank O.R. Fischer: The promotion of young talent in the field of material science is a central statute of the DGM. To this aim, we have developed central means, to which the Young Talent Forum on DGM Day (our main event as a society which includes a General Meeting and the awarding of DGM prizes) belongs, as an established important event for the community. The framework is ideal for young materials science talent: during the MSE in 2016, the established elite in the field, from around 50 nations met; and with the partner country USA, one of the most important markets for new materials was there at the front line.

During the established module „Meet the Expert”, luminaries from science and industry such as Siemens, Lufthansa, Volkswagen, European Space Agency (ESA) or Heimholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB), present the field of materials science and engineering during the Young Talent Fora, in all its facets, to small groups of participants, showing them career opportunities and possibilities of specialization. Short, personal speed-dating-discussions additionally consolidate the network between the generations, plenary discussions with the speakers from the DGM expert committees serve to facilitate an open exchange of opinions. In 2016, the “USA Germany Networking Symposium” was a further highlight, which was solely conceptualized and organised by students and doctoral candidates of materials science. It aimed to point out different career paths in the USA and in Germany and to intensify the German-American networking of young scientists.

Additionally, in recent years, Young DGM Groups have been established, which the materials science young talent can organize with the support of the DGM; a successful model that is expanding from year to year. By now, there are eight groups; last year, the Erlangen/Nürnberg Young DGM Regional Group and the Aalen Young DGM Regional Group were added. In years to come, it will be an essential task to support and stabilize the expansion of the Young DGM Network, anchoring it within the DGM structures. It is sure, that the work of the DGM in promoting young talent is on an excellent path into the future and it gives me great pleasure to observe with which commitment and fun the young people get involved, on a voluntary basis and in the name of our Society, to serve the field of materials science and engineering.

Press: How influential has DGM been on the development of materials scientific research since it was established in 1919? What achievements really stand out for you?

Frank O.R. Fischer: I believe that the influence of our society on the developments within materials science and engineering cannot be underestimated – in particular because a standardized area “Materials Science and Engineering” would not exist in Germany were it not for our input! In addition, the founding of numerous national and international institutions is based on the initiative of the DGM. I cannot and do not wish to list all of these achievements here, but rather refer you to our 131-page brochure “DGM PROfil”, which chronologically presents the manifold initiatives of the DGM and may be downloaded at:, free of charge!

Press: What is the DGM’s relationship with the rest of Europe? Is the DGM influential for other technical science associations for materials science and materials engineering in Europe?

Frank O.R. Fischer: I have already spoken about the involvement in the “Federation of European Materials Societies“ (FEMS) – and also about the fact that our congresses and collaborations are already partly Europe-oriented. Therefore it might be more interesting to mention a new aspect of our work, namely that we have recently been increasingly transatlantic orientated and had the USA as a partner country at the last MSE Congress – not just for the young talent as aforementioned in the form of a “USA Germany Networking Symposium”, but also concretely for our members as the US technical societies “Materials Research Society“ (MRS) as well as “The Minerals, Metals and Materials Society“ (TMS) were our collaboration partners.

Press: From your website, it appears the DGM has great social media resources – how is this used and how successful is your social media for the promotion of the work at DGM and materials science?

Frank O.R. Fischer: The actual influence of social media activities is very difficult to measure – and possibly does not need to be measured. We find that involvement in this area, beyond the number of clicks, is definitely important if one wants to take the achievements of materials science and engineering, for the benefit of our members, into the wider world. The young generation – and also increasingly the general public and politicians – now make use of digital media, which is why we recently radically updated our website and also report there on DGM activities in a blog.

Press: What does the future hold for DGM and its general principle of acting as guarantor for the systematic development of the fields of materials science and materials engineering?

Frank O.R. Fischer: In light of the importance of materials science and materials engineering for Germany as a business location – and also for the well-being of society – the core mission of the DGM, in the interests of its members and its field must be acted upon, and its importance has not diminished after 100 years – quite the contrary! Based on these traditions, we will try even harder in the future to enlighten politicians and interested members of the public as to the importance of materials science and materials engineering, for their actions and their lives.

Hereto, a highlight will be the Materials Week 2017 which we will organize in collaboration with the Steel Institute VDEh, to which over 1,800 materials experts from all over the world are expected, from the 27th to the 29th September. Dr. Ulf Merbold who was the first German in space and Dr.-Ing. Matthias Maurer of the European Space Agency (ESA) as well as two seasoned astronauts will speak about their scientific and personal experiences with zero gravity as well as referring to the importance of materials research for the work on the ISS and the future of manned space travel.

Thank you for your participation – we really appreciate it.

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This newsletter is published by Deutschen Gesellschaft für Materialkunde e.V. (Imprint)