German Internet Institute: Berlin-Brandenburg consortium wins bid
The German Internet Institute comes to Berlin. On May 23, 2017, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) announced who will run the new institute, which will explore the interplay of digitalization and society under the official title “Internet-Institut für die vernetzte Gesellschaft.” Behind the Berlin-Brandenburg proposal is a consortium of seven institutions, which submitted a joint bid for the internet institute as part of a national competition. Aside from the WZB Berlin Social Science Center, which has the coordinating role, the consortium consists of Berlin’s four universities (Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Berlin University of the Arts and Technische Universität Berlin), the University of Potsdam and the Fraunhofer Institute for Open Communication Systems (FOKUS). “Very much in line with the philosophy of digital pioneer Joseph Weizenbaum, we place societal issues at the center of our research on the ongoing mechanization of the world. We are thrilled that this approach and the close cooperation between many Berlin and Brandenburg institutions convinced the jury. We are also looking forward to collaborating with scientists at the national and international level,” said WZB President Jutta Allmendinger.
Berlin’s Governing Mayor and Senator for Science and Research, Michael Müller, said: “This success is impressive proof of what we can achieve by collaborating across institutions and by using synergies and a clear state-wide strategy. Along with the Einstein Center Digital Future, the German Internet Institute is a milestone for Berlin as a science and research hub.”
The interdisciplinary approach of the Berlin-Brandenburg consortium project is reflected both in the consortium’s makeup and in its research agenda, which systematically combines approaches taken from economics, social science, political science, law, computer science and design. By devising this structure for the “Internet Institut für die vernetzte Gesellschaft,” the consortium has set an ambitious goal for itself, as Jeanette Hofmann, a professor of internet policy who coordinated the Berlin-Brandenburg proposal, explains: “The new institute will set standards. We want to accompany the fundamental transformation of society through digitalization and, at the same time, highlight the existing opportunities for actively shaping that transformation. In this way, the institute helps strengthen civic participation and democratic self-determination in an interconnected society.”
The founding board of directors will consist of Martin Emmer, Professor at the Institute for Media and Communication Studies at FU Berlin, Ina Schieferdecker, Professor of Quality Engineering of Open Distributed Systems (TU Berlin/Fraunhofer FOKUS) and Axel Metzger, Professor of Civil Law and Intellectual Property Rights (HU Berlin).
The Berlin Senate will provide a building to house the institute; in addition, the state governments of Berlin and Brandenburg will provide long-term support by financing five new professorial positons at the participating universities.
In the final round of the competition, there were five bids from across Germany, including Berlin, Munich, Bochum, Karlsruhe and Hanover. They were called upon to submit ideas for establishing a new national internet institute. The members of the consortium that is now charged with creating that institute have stated their intention to collaborate with all institutes and universities that were involved in the competition and to build a network of partners from civil society, the business community, the political arena and the media. In the first five years, the BMBF provides €50 million in funding for the new institute.
More on the Berlin-Brandenburg consortium project: