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“Automotive engineering was, still is, and always will be an absolutely fascinating topic for me”

An interview with Professor Gerhard Walliser, Steinbeiser of the first generation

For Professor Gerhard Walliser, automotive engineering has not only been an essential part of his profession, it’s a calling. For the past three decades, not only has he witnessed major developments in the field at first hand, but he has also actively helped shape them, among other things through numerous Steinbeis projects. TRANSFER magazine talked to Professor Walliser about his passion, as well as his career at Steinbeis.

Hello Professor Walliser. You were involved in the Technical Consulting Service at Steinbeis back in the early 1970s – how did that come about?

Even then, I already had the idea of founding a transfer center for automation technology – with two of my colleagues, at what was then the Esslingen School of Engineering, and now the University of Applied Sciences. For a number of reasons, the idea didn’t really come to fruition, so I started offering my expertise to the Technical Consulting Service at Steinbeis. The staff training courses I organized, such as at Daimler, but also especially at Bosch, also formed part of my work for Steinbeis.

You founded the Steinbeis Transfer Center Automotive Engineering Esslingen in 1995 and you successfully headed up the center for more than a quarter of a century. How did the focus of your Steinbeis Enterprise change over the years?

The idea of founding the Steinbeis Transfer Center Automotive Engineering Esslingen came from industry. I myself also wanted to implement the idea by engaging in collegial collaboration with project managers. There was no plan originally for a larger institution with lots of people working for it. Then came the economic crisis and companies introduced hiring freezes, during which time we employed graduates based on industrial contracts. It was then that we recognized the importance of being an integral part of the Steinbeis Network. We’ve been involved in a variety of fascinating projects over the past 27 years, most of which were brought on board and completed by the project managers. In that regard, little has changed over the years.

Even though you retired as a Steinbeis Entrepreneur in March of this year, you’re still actively involved in your Steinbeis Enterprise on a freelance basis, as a project manager. What is it that continues to fascinate you so much about automotive engineering?

In the more than nine years I spent in industry after graduation, I was employed by Daimler in the area of turbomachinery, where I worked on controlling stationary and vehicle gas turbines. Automotive engineering was, still is, and always will be a absolutely fascinating topic for me. The things that interested me, and still do, are automotive electronics and automotive IT.

The topic of know-how and technology transfer in the field of automotive engineering is really important to you, as is reflected, among other things, in the symposium you organized on “electronics in the automotive industry”. Why exactly is that?

The first Electronics in the Automotive Industry event took place in 1988. In those days, there wasn’t much research being done on the topic of navigation; it was more of an issue in the background – at Bosch for example. A few years later, things were quite different, and the topic gained significantly in importance. And it was precisely those symposia that allowed me to experience the rapid developments happening in the field of automotive electronics and computer systems – at first hand. It was practically knowledge-sharing and technology transfer at your fingertips.

You completed a large number of successful projects during your time with Steinbeis. Looking back, which ones do you cherish the most?

It’s difficult to single out any particular ones from all those projects over the last decades. Maybe the Finland project would be one of them. The plan was to find a way to carry out winter testing on vehicles in Finland – but also in the summer. To do that, a tunnel system would have to be set up. One of the tasks we were assigned with as the team at Steinbeis was to provide the European automotive industry with detailed information on the project. Unfortunately, it never came to fruition due to the looming financial crisis, although almost all of the companies we visited in Europe felt enthusiastic about the project.


Prof. Dipl.-Ing., Prof. h.c. (YZU) Gerhard Walliser (interviewee)
Freelance project manager
Steinbeis Transfer Center Automotive Engineering Esslingen (Esslingen)