That is why the German Center for Mobility is becoming a foundation

Berlin While the future coalition members of the SPD, Greens and FDP are still discussing their transport policy timetable for the new legislative period, the managing minister, Andreas Scheuer, is trying to save what is probably the most important part of his political legacy: the CSU politician wants the German Center for Mobility he has devised der Zukunft (DZM), based in Munich, can quickly be set up as a foundation and thus protect against access by future ministers.

In any case, this interpretation is circulating in the ministry about the recent activities in the house. After all, by 2024 alone, almost half a billion euros will be invested in the project. Because things have to be done quickly in view of the imminent change of government, they say, a “trust foundation” could even emerge.

The concept is reminiscent of the mobility data room, which the Academy of Engineering Sciences, also based in Munich, set up in trust for the federal government – albeit as a GmbH. The shareholders are now a number of private companies who are now taking over the future financing.

The federal government financed the start with six million euros. A spokesman for the ministry confirmed the foundation plans in principle. A “foundation under civil law” is planned “according to the current status”. “This legal form is best suited to fulfill the goals pursued with the establishment of the DZM. Further details are currently being worked out and coordinated. “

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Foundations are unusual for research centers

The process is anything but normal. The federal research institutions are usually a federal institute, for example for roads or hydraulic engineering, in other cases a federal institute – for building, urban and spatial research, for example, or for hydrology. Or it is a Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency, a federal headquarters or an aerospace center organized as an association.

But a foundation, possibly fed with a lot of tax money, without political influence and then a kind of special fund outside of any household sovereignty?

The DZM should be detached from day-to-day political business and itself “opinion leaders”, explains the current managing director, Julia Schmid, the plans for a foundation and makes it clear: “We are not an authority of the BMVI.” .

Critics, on the other hand, suspect a plan by Minister Scheuer. The Bavarian CDU politician announced in March 2020 – during the Bavarian local election campaign – that he would found the DZM and link it closely with the Technical University (TU) there in his home state capital. He had his first money approved in November of that year by the households in the Bundestag, who were given “satellite locations” in their home constituencies.

Frustration in the satellite locations

More than 40 million euros should actually flow there this year, but so far there has only been frustration, as you register in the ministry. After all, there are no satellites without a foundation. “Since the DZM has not yet been formally founded, it is a BMVI project,” said a spokesman. That is why the locations have to make complex applications for projects if they want to receive money. But there is a lack of staff. Further locations are to be added later, but the rules for a transparent selection process are “only in the basics”, as it was called in the ministry.

In any case, there has only been a concept since August of this year, created by “PD – Consultants of the Public Hand GmbH”, which, as a subsidiary of the federal government, is developing concepts for public-private partnerships. She had already prepared an expert opinion for the minister in order to set up a mobile communications infrastructure company – as a GmbH. On the question of the DZM, the PD presented a short version (19 pages) with all sorts of catchphrases such as “cluster”, “KI”, “real laboratories” and “mobility academy” in August – and recommended a foundation in the non-public long version.

With the report in his luggage, Scheuer celebrated the “foundation” in Munich in the middle of the federal election campaign – in the presence of party leader and Prime Minister Markus Söder and the ex-president of the university, Wolfgang Herrmann. The professor had headed the TU for 24 years and established a university foundation during that time. Since then he has been committed to fundraising at the University of Excellence. He received his chain of office at the University of Politics at the TU in 2014 from today’s CSU General Secretary Markus Blume.

Herrmann is also the chairman of the DZM’s founding advisory board. His TU provides two of the three employees of the DZM, including managing director Schmid, his former head of the presidential staff, herself a scientist with a focus on forest economics. The ministry provides the second managing director.

Traffic light coalition wants to “reorganize” the DZM

There it was said that the center should probably have legal capacity “in the first half of 2022”. Until then, a trustee could act. How the foundation finances itself is just as nebulous. The ministry did not comment on whether the proposed budget should be endowment capital. The only thing that is certain is that 322.5 million euros are reserved in the federal budget until 2024 and that additional funds for topics such as urban air mobility, synthetic fuels and hydrogen are also to be focal points of the DZM – financed with 100 million euros from the federal energy and climate fund .

Perhaps the first co-financiers are already on the founding advisory board: In addition to several members of the Technical University of Munich, there are also company representatives from Airbus, Deutsche Bahn, Lufthansa and the President of the Automobile Association or the head of IG Metall, who is also a member of the Volkswagen Supervisory Board. According to the ministry, the advisory board members prepare “proposals for key issues”.

The concern that a minister from the SPD, the Greens or the FDP could stop the center again is not unjustified. There was already strong criticism at the end of last year when Scheuer secured the money from the responsible budget politicians. The FDP criticized that “no attention” had been paid to economic efficiency. The Greens also criticized it as against the financial regulation to plan more than 40 million euros for a start-up. It is also contrary to the sense of a research institution to support start-ups.
In the coalition talks, it was said, the DZM was only marginally discussed. But it should be “reorganized”.

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