Helmholtz Association
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The President heads the Helmholtz Association. He is responsible for implementing the programme-oriented funding system. Working with the Helmholtz Centres, the President is also responsible for developing the association's general strategy and for representing the association internally and externally. The President is elected by the Senate once every five years on the basis of a proposal submitted by the Assembly of Members with two terms maximum.

Photos: Steffen Jänicke

The President's responsibilities

The Statutes of the Helmholtz Association define the President's responsibilities as follows:

  • To prepare and implement the Senate recommendations on programme funding, including the organisation of programme evaluations,
  • To coordinate the development of programmes across research fields and to develop the general strategy,
  • To represent the Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft e.V. externally,
  • To coordinate the financial controlling system across all the centres,
  • To present draft resolutions on the programmes and their budgets in the Senate,
  • To negotiate - on the basis of Senate recommendations - with the centres and financing partners on the total funding requirement for the Helmholtz Association and on the distribution of the association budget across the research fields.

The President has a so-called Initiative and Networking Fund worth 60m euros per year at his disposal. This instrument enables him to carry forward the association's development and to accelerate the reform processes. The President can use the fund to specifically drive forward the programme-oriented funding and to extend examples of best practice developed in individual Helmholtz Centres across the whole association. The president is elected on the basis of the proposal of the General Assembly every five years by the Senate, for a maximum of two terms. He is assisted by eight vice presidents and managing directors.

The Incumbent: Professor Dr. Otmar D. Wiestler

“Helmholtz Association’s greatest strength is to be found in the eighteen research centres, which distinguish themselves through critical mass, pronounced interdisciplinary expertise, excellent infrastructure and outstanding scientists. Consequently, the centres comprise the motor for innovative research topics that are strategically positioned at the level of the respective research area, thus forming the research landscape. At the same time, the Association fosters cohesion internally while representing these research areas externally. We are in a position, more than almost any other research organisation, to tackle huge scientific challenges with a comprehensive and sustainable approach. Based on our key topics we can, in particular, close ranks between exceptional basic research, systems analysis and translation in application-based aspects (in the sense of a virtuous cycle of innovation). These expectations can only be met when we establish a high degree of flexibility, keep our portfolio under close and on-going scrutiny and continue to increase our attractiveness for the best minds in the particular field. And in the implementation of this strategy, alliances with the strongest partners from academia and industry in the national and international environment play a vital role,” observes Professor Wiestler regarding the Helmholtz Association. He was appointed Acting President on 1 September 2015.

Otmar D. Wiestler was born in Freiburg (Breisgau, Germany) on 6 November 1956. After completing his medical studies at the University of Freiburg, he obtained his Doctorate in Medicine in 1984 (summa cum laude). From 1984 to 1987 he was employed in a postdoc capacity in the Department of Pathology at the University of California, San Diego, USA. He then changed to the University Hospital Zurich in Switzerland, where he qualified as University Lecturer in the subject Pathology. In 1992 the University of Bonn appointed him as Professor for Neuropathology and Director of the Institut für Neuropathologie.  He helped to establish a large neuroscientific research centre there. In the timeframe between January 2004 and August 2015 Otmar Wiestler led, as Chairman of the Executive Board and Scientific Director, the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg (DKFZ), which is ranked among the leading international institutions in cancer research.



Prof. Dr. Otmar D. Wiestler


Helmholtz Association

praesident (at) helmholtz.de

Dr Esther Breunig

Executive Assistant to the President

Helmholtz Association

Phone: +49 30 206329-42
esther.breunig (at) helmholtz.de

Dr Claudia Mayer

Assistant for Strategic Initiatives

Helmholtz Association

Phone: +49 30 206329-10
laudia.mayer (at) helmholtz.de

Cornelia Sigleur

Presidents` Office, Personal Assistant

Helmholtz Association

Phone: +49 30 206329-52
cornelia.sigleur (at) helmholtz.de

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