The voice of business for science

Carl Zeiss AG – annual figures

Kaschke managed the Zeiss Group until 2020.

(Photo: dpa)

Berlin Michael Kaschke is one of the rare top managers who could have been successful in science. “For me, education, research and innovation are inseparable and crucial for sustainable success,” says Kaschke, who headed the Zeiss Group until 2020.

The 64-year-old is now taking over the presidency of the Stifterverband – and is thus becoming the voice of industry for research, innovation and education, which has a considerable influence on politics.

“In a time of comprehensive transformations in many areas of society, excellent education, science and innovation are needed more than ever,” says Kaschke. And adds: “With its more than 100-year tradition, the Stifterverband can and must play an important role as an opinion leader, initiator and platform designer for the successful organization of these transformations.”

Kaschke is very close to science: two years ago he took over as head of the supervisory board of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. There he is considered the ideal candidate for the position – he also teaches medical technology.

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Kaschke is a member of the National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina and was a member of the Science Council for a long time. “As a trained physicist, he is characterized by patience and prudence, but also a love of experimentation and enthusiasm for advances in knowledge – exactly the right qualities to lead the Stifterverband successfully into the future,” says the outgoing President of the Stifterverband, the former Boehringer Ingelheim CEO , Andrew Barner.

Tottered between science and industry

Kaschke doesn’t like it when it’s discussed, but the Thuringian native is probably the most successful German industrial manager with East German roots. “I was 32 when the turning point came, had just finished my degree and was able to take off,” he said in an interview with the Handelsblatt on the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

He wavered between science and industry, initially accepted an invitation as a guest scientist to the IBM research center near New York and then decided on Zeiss.

Kaschke built up medical technology there and worked on the board for 20 years, initially as head of finance and since 2011 as head of the board. Zeiss is one of the most innovative German industrial companies with an R&D rate of more than ten percent. Without Zeiss lithography optics, the latest generation of chips in Apple smartphones and laptops would not exist.

Kaschke’s deep knowledge of foundations is also valuable for the Stifterverband. He played a central role in the reform of the Carl Zeiss Foundation, the owner of Zeiss, and the Mainzer Schott AG.

Kaschke is an advocate of clear rules. That’s why he wanted to use the foundation reform to pave the way to an AG – not to enable an IPO, but to give the foundation company clear governance rules.

Like his predecessor Barner, Kaschke has a reserved, calm but coolly analytical manner with a pronounced fascination for innovations. His expertise is not only in demand on the supervisory board of Telekom and of Henkel and Bosch. He is also a member of Robert Bosch Industrietreuhand KG, which holds the majority of the voting rights of the Bosch shareholders.

In Kaschke, the Stifterverband is getting a boss who knows exactly what foundation companies need in order to cooperate closely with science and remain innovative in the long term.

More: Interview with Andreas Barner – “I’m surprised about Mr. Döpfner”

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