DFG Leibniz Lecture on “Networked Cybernetics” at GRIAT in Kazan

(05.03.2018) At the end of February, the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation), together with the German Russian Institute of Advanced Technologies (GRIAT), hosted a lecture by Leibniz Prize winner and Vice-President of the DFG, Professor Frank Allgöwer, at the Kazan National Research Technical University (KNRTU-KAI). In his lecture, entitled “Networked Cybernetics: From the Classical Feedback Loop to the New Cybernetics of the 21st Century,” Professor Allgöwer discussed the current technical challenges for intelligent, digitally networked systems with an audience of interested experts from academia, research and industry.

In his Leibniz Lecture, distinguished cyberneticist Professor Frank Allgöwer outlined the new developments, problems and challenges associated with controlling interconnected networks of complex dynamic systems to the 80-strong audience, identifying links between these issues and the current discourse surrounding all things Industry 4.0, robotics and autonomous vehicles. As well as discussing current technical challenges, Allgöwer drew attention to the ethical questions these developments bring with them. The subsequent discussion with the audience clearly demonstrated that it is critical for the research community to actively address the disquiet about the future that is associated with technical progress. Allgöwer emphasised that in times of rapid technical change it is in fact the humanities, in particular, that have the important responsibility of not just monitoring and reflecting on the impact of this change on society and civilisation, but of monitoring it proactively from a legal, anthropological, sociological or economic perspective. During an expert seminar over several hours for early career researchers on the topic “Industry 4.0: Challenges and opportunities for optimization-based control,” which was held at the German-Russian Institute of Advanced Technologies in the lead-up to the Leibniz Lecture, Frank Allgöwer analysed the technical aspects of this change in detail.

The German-Russian Institute of Advanced Technologies (GRIAT) is funded by the German Academic Exchange Service and the autonomous Republic of Tatarstan with the objective of establishing a “German-Russian university” at KNRTU-KAI. GRIAT admitted its first cohort of students into four English-language engineering sciences courses in September 2014; 80 students have already graduated to date. It is planned to offer ten additional Masters courses and a Graduate School by 2020. A German partner institution, the Technical University of Ilmenau, acts as consortium manager in close consultation with the University of Magdeburg; more recently, the technical universities of Kaiserslautern and Braunschweig have also participated in the project. GRIAT is based at the Kazan National Research Technical University, which was named in honour of A. N. Tupolev. The university is one of the leading Russian institutions in the areas of aeronautical engineering, engine design and instrument building, informatics and radio and communications technology and is the largest technical university in the Republic of Tatarstan and the Volga Region. Kazan is referred to as Russia's “third capital” and is one of the most important research locations in the Russian Federation. The DFG has been funding numerous projects in the areas of chemistry, physics and mathematics, along with geology and the social sciences, for many years.

The visit associated with the Leibniz Lecture was overseen by the DFG office in Moscow. It also served to promote ties, as well as preparing the way for further cooperation arrangements. An opportunity for exchange about current developments in the academic landscape of Kazan was provided by a meeting with the Rector of the Kazan Federal University (KFU), Ilshat Gafurov, who reported on new structures at the third-oldest Russian university and its international research cooperation arrangements. The KFU is among the select group of Russia's ten Federal Universities that receive special funding as part of higher education reform. The DFG and the DAAD held the inaugural German-Russian Week of the Young Researcher there in 2011.

On the following day, the Director of the Kazan Scientific Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Oleg Sinyashin, met with the DFG delegation for a discussion of German-Russian research cooperation. The Center combines the administrative functions of eight research institutions of the Russian Academy of Sciences with around 1,000 employees. The institutes’ specialisations include physics, mathematics and engineering, organic chemistry, biophysics and biochemistry, energy, agriculture and medicine.

Frank Allgöwer, Vice-President of the DFG since 2012, is a professor and Director of the Institute for Systems Theory and Automatic Control at the University of Stuttgart. He was awarded the German Research Foundation's Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize in 2004 for his research. The Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize is the most important research funding award in Germany. Worth up to €2.5 million, it is awarded by the DFG each year to outstanding researchers. The DFG organises Leibniz Lectures by winners of the research prize throughout the world. This allows top-level research topics in Germany to be presented in other countries with a view to promoting cooperation potential. The format has also established itself in Russia as a successful regular event. The Leibniz Lecture by Frank Allgöwer is the seventh organised by the DFG office in Russia since 2012.