THE SCIENCE OF SUCCESS
When designing an electric taxi for Southeast Asia, the team at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) did not just consider engine mechanics. They also researched Singapore’s climate and the social needs of local people.
“The windscreen has to be at a much steeper angle than in Germany due to the incoming sun,” says Professor Wolfgang Herrmann, President of the German institution, which was founded in 1868. “And young populations need air-con plus a child-seat. Taxis account for one fifth of all mileage in Singapore so you have to get it right by respecting local customs and wishes. A car is not just a technological construct – it’s a social one too.”
This project, for which TUM partnered with Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, is part of the German university’s pioneering work in electro mobility. The taxi was an adaptation of the university’s original electric car, debuted at the 2011 Frankfurt international car show, and itself a perfect example of TUM’s strength in interdisciplinary research and education.
AN INTERDISCIPLINARY APPROACH
To create this vehicle took the teamwork of no fewer than 120 students and 20 professors from eight different departments ranging from architecture to industrial design. With 40,000 students and 14 departments, TUM offers courses not only in the engineering sciences but also in natural sciences, life sciences and medicine, and boasts a world-class business school. Master’s courses often combine up to three disciplines and students are encouraged to obtain skills in more than one area. The appeal for students from the UK is that 28 master’s programmes are taught in English.
TUM is one of just 11 German universities designated an “elite university of excellence” by the Federal Ministry of Education. It also came 8th in the Global Employability University Ranking 2016, after prestigious names such as Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard and Yale. “Our achievements are even more impressive when you consider that our focus is on engineering and technology, not on disciplines such as law or language studies,” says Professor Herrmann. “What we do is deliver talented graduates, fit for scientific careers and the world of business. And that’s something no other German university delivers.”
It is through close links with both industry and scientific institutions, at home and worldwide, that TUM stands out from the competition. Students and staff actively take part in some 1,000 research contracts a year to solve challenges faced by household names such as Siemens, General Electric, BMW and Volkswagen. Since 1990, the university has generated more than 900 spin-off and start-up companies, which have created more than 14,000 jobs in the Munich area. Here, the entrepreneurial spirit is actively encouraged and
nurtured among students. “A third of our students undergo courses in how to run their own business,” says Professor Herrmann. “Our partners help them write their own business plan and raise money on their first investment. We encourage them to be their own boss and not let others define them, to be as good as they possibly can and convince people of the value of their research.”
Above all, TUM strives to show its budding scientists and entrepreneurs that research is an adventure; that innovations such as electric cars only come about through being bold. “Research is risky and it takes knowledge,” says Professor Herrmann. “But if you have stamina and guts then you will go all the way to the top.”