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A Passionate European Passes the Baton

Change of leadership at the Steinbeis-Europa-Zentrum and the office of the Baden-Wuerttemberg Commissioner for Europe

After 15 successful years as the Commissioner for Europe for the Baden-Wuerttemberg Minister of Economic Affairs and as the director of the Steinbeis-Europa-Zentrum (SEZ), Prof. Dr.-Ing. Dr. h. c. Norbert Höptner passed the baton at the end of 2017 to Dr. Petra Püchner, who has been inputting with her expertise in European issues as director of the Steinbeis-Europa-Zentrum in Stuttgart since 2001. Püchner has also been Managing Director of Steinbeis 2i GmbH since last year. At an official ceremony held on January 31, 2018 in the Hospitalhof training center, the Baden- Wuerttemberg Minister of Economic Affairs Dr. Nicole Hoffmeister- Kraut bade farewell to her outgoing Commissioner for Europe.

“Professor Höptner was a builder of bridges for small and medium-sized companies in Baden-Wuerttemberg to get to Brussels. His success record is impressive – whether it was attracting funding from the EU or initiating partnerships between Baden-Wuerttemberg companies and their European and international partners,” said the minister, praising his commitment. She added that he is a passionate and enthusiastic European and his work has made a considerable contribution to Baden- Wuerttemberg’s benefiting from European funding for innovation and research. Thanks to his commitment, Höptner made an important contribution to Baden-Wuerttemberg as a whole as a region of innovation. He also helped promote transnational technology and knowledge-sharing into and out of Baden-Wuerttemberg, continued Hoffmeister- Kraut. For example, this applied to research collaboration as part of the Four Motors for Europe partnership, as part of the Vanguard Initiative, as well as work in the Danube Region and the Districts of Creativity.

Prof. Dr. Michael Auer, Chairman of the Steinbeis Foundation Board, thanked Norbert Höptner on behalf of the Steinbeis Board of Trustees and on behalf of the entire Steinbeis Network, highlighting his tremendous commitment, competence, and enthusiasm for Europe. It was thanks to Höptner and his colleagues at the Steinbeis-Europa-Zentrum that a deep conviction – that the potential of European research excellence, teaching, and innovative enterprise can only be exploited together and across borders – is now being translated into business practice. “Anyone who invests 15 years of their heart and soul into the concept of Europe, and repeatedly and decisively opposes social and political contention fueled by national leaning, is bound to leave their mark. In the case of Norbert Höptner, there were numerous successful projects and, in particular, robust partnerships based on trust between a whole host of regions in Europe, especially along the Danube,” said Auer. As a sign of gratitude for the many years of loyal collaboration and his outstanding commitment, Höptner received a Steinbeis Award at the farewell ceremony.

Norbert Höptner was a professor at Pforzheim University and was appointed Commissioner for Europe in August 2002. For over 15 years, he worked alongside each presiding Minister of Economic Affairs in Baden- Wuerttemberg. In this function he was also director of the Steinbeis- Europa-Zentrum, which was founded in 1990 with the aim of paving the way for small and medium-sized enterprises to gain EU research funding and of providing support to initiatives involving transnational technology transfer. As part of the Steinbeis Network and a partner in the Enterprise Europe Network, its role is to build bridges across Europe for business enterprises, research institutions, universities, politics, and governmental bodies.

… and Minister Hoffmeister-Kraut appointing Dr. Petra Püchner (right) as the new Commissioner
for Europe.

Following the appointment of Petra Püchner as the new Commissioner for Europe, she will continue to head up the SEZ in addition to her other duties as the Commissioner for Europe. As the minister Hoffmeister- Kraut emphasized: “Appointing Dr. Püchner as my new Commissioner for Europe brings on board a fervent European with a profound understanding of European institutions, who has already worked closely with industry in Baden-Wuerttemberg and has worked especially closely with our medium-sized businesses. I am also particularly pleased that Petra Püchner is the first woman to take on the role of Commissioner for Europe, for which she is highly qualified.” As a result of her appointment, Püchner is stepping down from the management of Steinbeis 2i. To safeguard continuity, Dr. Jonathan Loeffler will continue in his role at the hitherto jointly managed Steinbeis subsidiary, drawing on his many years of experience in the Steinbeis Network as managing director.