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Fifty Years of Innovation: Anniversary Marked by Reorientation

[11. Dezember 2006]

On the very day of Research Centre Jülich's 50th anniversary, Professor Achim Bachem, Chairman of the Board of Directors since October 2006, announced his plans for the future. New priority areas are to be the fields of health and energy/environment. The key competency for which the Research Centre is to be known will be scientific computing using supercomputers. As a sign of its identification with the ideas of the Helmholtz Association, the Centre will be renamed "Helmholtz Centre Jülich" in July 2007.

"Jülich is no longer a nuclear research establishment but rather a modern large-scale research laboratory whose key competencies of physics, simulation and materials science focus on important issues in the fields of energy/environment and health", Bachem announced yesterday to journalists in Bonn at a press conference on the occasion of Research Centre Jülich's 50th anniversary. He also took this opportunity to present a festschrift documenting the history and future plans for Germany's largest national research institution.

"Demographic change in our society is one of the grand challenges for the future. In an ageing society, diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's or dementia and the associated changes in the brain take on increasing significance. This is why brain research is a major priority at Jülich", said Bachem as a reason for setting priorities in health research. Close cooperation with commercial enterprises, in this case Siemens, will play an important part in developing unique equipment for medical examinations.

With respect to energy research Bachem said "The solution to the global challenge of the energy question is to be found in the energy mix. This is why here in Jülich our research will reflect a whole range of aspects. We are therefore concerned with making our own distinctive contribution to such important topics as the optimization of power plant technology and work on photovoltaics, up to and including the development of future technologies such as the fuel cell and nuclear fusion." Bachem emphasized the close links to environmental impacts, which is why the excellent environmental research at Jülich will be further pursued.

Scientific computing with supercomputers will play a key role in Jülich's future profile since as Bachem said "Jülich is characterized by having not only supercomputers but also a unique scientific environment." Simulation on supercomputers has developed into a completely new category of scientific work, in addition to the two classical tools of theory and experiment. Experts are of the opinion that supercomputing is only just coming into its own. "Research Centre Jülich has always been at the forefront of this development and will now redouble its efforts in this field." Bachem's next objective is for Jülich to become a European supercomputing centre by extending the supercomputer capacities to the petaflop level in 2009 thus creating research conditions for scientists in Germany and Europe unrivalled anywhere in the world.

"Although we are legally independent and proud of our independence, at the same time we identify ourselves with the objectives and mission of the Helmholtz Association", said Bachem as a justification for the change of name to Helmholtz Centre Jülich from July 2007.

On 11 December 1956, the State Parliament of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) decided unanimously across party boundaries to make funds available for the foundation of an atomic research establishment on condition that research should be for purely peaceful purposes. Nuclear Research Centre Jülich (KFA) developed into a national research centre funded by the Federal Government (90 %) and the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia (10 %) with an outstanding international reputation in the field of nuclear safety research. This scientific work culminated in the development of the thorium high-temperature reactor (THTR), which even today remains the safest reactor type worldwide.

In the mid-eighties, the partners - the Federal Government and NRW - decided to gradually cut back on safety research at Jülich. On the initiative of the NRW Innovation Ministry in December 2006, the remaining expertise in this field will now be maintained in cooperation with RWTH Aachen University. Jülich has thus decided to pursue an innovative research approach by now incorporating modern simulation techniques with supercomputers.

The Research Centre already began to diversify into new fields of work in the mid-eighties under the leadership of Professor Joachim Treusch - Chairman of the Board of Directors for almost twenty years - with research priorities in matter, energy, information technology, life, earth and the environment.

Looking Back/Looking Forward, 288 pages, German/English.
Journalists may request a review copy free of charge from:
Research Centre Jülich, Corporate Communications, 52425 Jülich, GermanyFax 0049 2461 61-4666, E-Mail:

More information:

Fifty Years of Innovation:

Information on the research area of health:

Information on the research area of supercomputers:

More information:

Dr. Angela Lindner
Head of Corporate Communications and Press Relations Officer
Tel. 0049 2461 61-4661, fax 0049 2461 61-4666

Peter Schäfer
Deputy Head of Corporate Communications
Research Centre Jülich
52425 Jülich, Germany
Tel.: 0049 2461 61-8028, Fax: 0049 2461 61-8106