“The future depends on research and development”

  • Federal Chancellor
  • Olaf Scholz

  • News

  • Chancellery

  • Service

The Federal Chancellor’s “Jugend forscht” meet and greet “The future depends on research and development”

On Tuesday, Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz received the award winners of this year’s national “Jugend forscht” youth science competition in the Chancellery. On this occasion, the Federal Chancellor also followed tradition by presenting the special award for the most original project to two students from Berlin, who looked into an extraordinary physical phenomenon.

Charlotte Klar and Katharina Austermann present their research project to Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

The 18-year-old students Charlotte Klar and Katharina Austermann explained their work to the Federal Chancellor.

Photo: Federal Government/Kugler

Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz had invited the “Jugend forscht” award winners to the Chancellery on Tuesday. The Chancellor started his speech by looking back and remembering that “Jugend forscht” had already existed when he was still in school, and how this impressive competition had contributed to shaping our country for several decades. He went on to say that this was why he was proud, grateful and excited to “come together with all award winners and all those who have taken action, and to enjoy the results”.

Fewer concerns about the future

Federal Chancellor Scholz stressed that he was very impressed with the “great number of young people who worked hard and achieved a wide range of important outcomes through their research,” especially in the run-up to the competition. A total of 9,400 young people submitted their projects as part of this year’s competition, and more than 40 percent of the participants were female. Scholz said that this made him feel that he needed to “worry a bit less” about the future of our country. He added that “the future depends on research and development”, and that the knowledge we already possess would “not bring prosperity or wealth”.


Video Empfang des Kanzlers für die Preisträgerinnen und Preisträger des Bundeswettbewerbs „Jugend forscht 2023“

The motto of this year’s “Jugend forscht” competition was “Let ideas grow!”. Entries were submitted by 9,386 young people across the country, which corresponds to an increase of 10.1 percent following a decline in participation in 2021 and 2022 owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. A total of 5,156 projects were entered, about 7.7 percent more than last year. This year, girls made up the highest ever share of entries in the history of "Jugend forscht", at 41.1 percent. A total of 3,857 young female researchers registered for the 2023 competition. Last year, the female participants made up 40.5 percent of entries.

“Levitation needs heat”

Charlotte Klar and Katharina Austermann from Berlin looked into an extraordinary phenomenon: when carbon is heated up, it can take on a special shape called "pyrolytic graphite". This material has the special property of being able to hover over magnets arranged like a chessboard. There was one question the two 18-year-old high school graduates were particularly interested in: is it possible to manipulate the hovering process by adding or removing heat?

The two contestants conducted a series of experiments to explore this. Among other things, they used dry ice to cool pyrolytic graphite down to sub-zero temperatures, and they observed that in this state it was repelled more strongly by a magnet than when it was warm. This is how they were able to demonstrate that the magnetic properties of the graphite are indeed temperature-dependent.

Charlotte Klar and Katharina Austermann proved the textbooks wrong: “Our goal was to clear up a contradiction in the literature. We conducted various experiments for this purpose, and when we saw the measurement results, we were certain that the statements made in text books aren’t quite right,” they said.

Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz was impressed by the two students’ approach and he congratulated them for their commitment and the courage to acquire expert knowledge about a complex issue that goes far beyond what is taught in school, which was why he presented the two researchers with his special award for the most original project.

In an interview, Katharina Austermann and Charlotte Klar spoke about the idea for their project, about particular challenges in its realisation and about how “unreal” it felt for both of them to receive this special prize.

A success story

In the final of the 58thround of the “Jugend forscht” competition, 173 young people presented a total of 108 projects to an expert jury. These finalists were the winners of 120 competition events on regional and state levels. Projects are divided into seven disciplines: occupational world, biology, chemistry, geological and space sciences, mathematics/informatics, physics, and technology. Cash and non-cash prizes such as research internships and scholarships are awarded for the five best projects in each discipline.

In 1971 the then Federal Chancellor, Willy Brand, presented the special award for the most original project at the national “Jugend forscht” competition for the first time. His successors have continued the tradition. Back then, the number of participants had been just under 1,000, while as many as 10,000 young people regularly enter the annual competition these days.

Passionate about STEM professions

The Federal Government has a number of initiatives for attracting a greater number of qualified individuals from the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), as Germany is currently short of 310,000 workers in the STEM area. One of these initiatives is the “STEM Action Plan 2.0” that provides for measures along the entire education chain to be pooled – from nursery all the way to higher education, vocational training and professional advancement. The goal is to arouse enthusiasm for mathematics, informatics, science and technology, even among nursery age children. To this end, there is a special education programme as guidance for qualified personnel and teachers in encouraging children to discover, explore and learn.