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Prof. D. Herbert Danniger

Inaugural address as Doctor Honoris Causa Prof. D. Alberto Molinari

Herbert Danniger en su discurso de investidura como Doctor Honoris Causa en 2016

University Day, 29th of January, 2016.

Excelentisimo y Magnifico Señor Rector, dear colleagues and friends,

It is a great honour for me to receive the Doctor honoris causa of UC3M, a university we have been cooperating with for many years, and it is not only the scientific link but I have to pleasure to regard the colleagues from UC3M as personal friends. 

Of course, UC3M and TUW have not generated the links between Madrid and Vienna, but there is a much longer tradition: those of you who have attended the PM2004 World Congress held in Vienna 12 years ago will also remember the logo which showed the Austrian coat-of arms and within it a white horse. As you will know, this horse symbolizes the “Spanish Riding School” which is one of the major at-tractions of Vienna but also reminds us of the close ties between Spain and Austria for many centuries. We can recall Emperor Charles V, in Spain King Carlos I, in whose empire the sun did not set. We can also look at the art galleries, the Prado in Madrid and the Kunsthistor-ische Museum in Vienna, and we can see the intense exchange of fi-ne art that emerged from the ties between Spain and Austria. In part this has been a consequence of the numerous intermarriages be-tween the Habsburg dynasties in Spain and Austria. But as we know, this was not too beneficial for the physical and mental health of the offsprings, and the result was that a new dynasty started to reign in Spain – symbolized by King Carlos III, whose name this university bears.  By the way, this is also a message to universities: be careful to avoid inbreeding, “boiling in your own sauce”, as we use to say, but be open to others. Alberto here is a sign that we have avoided Spanish-Austrian inbreeding, but we have integrated also colleagues from Sweden and Slovakia and many more.

In these days, the links were political and cultural. Today, we have al-so scientific links, in particular through our joint focus, powder metal-lurgy. This is based in part on the fact that both Spain and Austria are extraordinarily strong in the powder metallurgy industry which in turn has also supported academic research and education in this important field of materials science and technology. This also holds for Italy, therefore it was natural that UC3M, UdT and TU Wien would find to-gether. The bond was initially the project Höganäs Chair, initiated by Prof. Torralba, but in the meantime there are other joint activities – which is natural, since we know very well what each of us can do, and we can trust each other, which is essential also in science.

There are however also other items that bind us together: one of them is that we do recognize longterm trends but not like to follow fashions. As you know, also science has its fashions, and there are many insti-tutions and researchers that follow each new fad, “jump on the band-wagon”, which frequently has the consequence that they work on each topic for a short time and then change to another one. However this is a good recipe for being third rate in all cases since, as we all know, becoming top class in a given field of science takes years of hard work. 

There is of course pressure on scientists to follow the fashionable trends since many funding organizations tend to do the same.  In my opinion this is a risky policy, in particular in basic research, since no-body knows which results and knowhow will be required in 20 years’ time from now. I remember Prof. Werner Schatt from Dresden who used to say: “the notion that basic research can be planned is an er-ror” (he even used the German word “Irrlehre” which means “heresy”).

On the other hand, as a scientist nowadays you have to go where the money is, in particular if you do experimental work. Here, the PM groups in UC3M and UdT as well as TUW have the big advantage that we always have had a lot of projects funded by the industry. This im-plies that we do not fully depend on the public funding organizations and their fashions. Of course, also working for the industry is a tough job. Compared to e.g. EU projects, the proposals can be much shorter and more concise, and the chances to get a project are usually higher, but as soon as you have the contract, you have to deliver results on and on, and the quality control is much tougher than with public-funded projects. With industry projects your duties do not end as soon as you have the project granted but just have started. I think this is al-so a feature that unifies us: the willingness to work with and for the in-dustry – and therefore, on the long run, for the consumer - and the knowhow for doing it.

It is a great honour for me to be awarded the doctor honoris causa from UC3M, and I am grateful to the Rector and the University authori-ties, to those colleagues who have sponsored this award, Department of Materials Science and Engineering and Alvaro Alonso Barba Insti-tute, and of course to my “academic mother” or “Madrina” Monica Campos Gomez. However I also want to appreciate all my coworkers, the generations of diploma and PhD students, in particular those who have been involved in the joint projects with UC3M. I thank the funding partners, public and industry. And I want to thank in particular the part-ners from UC3M and UdT, Jose Manuel Torralba and Alberto Molinari and their teams, for their support and cooperation and also for their friendship. We started as coworkers, but we have become friends!

Thank you