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Shaping the European Issues of the Future

Health, artificial intelligence, sustainability: with two high-profile virtual events including top-class participants, the University of Passau is promoting the exchange of information between science, politics and society on major European challenges. By Nicola Jacobi

“The challenges of our time can only be mastered together”, was the credo of European Parliamentarian, Manfred Weber. He was one of the well-known European guests whom President Professor Ulrich Bartosch welcomed to the University of Passau for the two major virtual events on Europeantopics. The University of Passau, which is located on the edge of Germany, but geographically in the centre of Europe, emphasised its research focus on Europe with its high-profile virtual events: “We want to contribute to the answering of important questions in respect of European development”, said Professor Christina Hansen, Vice-President for International Affairs and Diversity at the University of Passau. She went on to emphasise how important networking, and being involved in European university networks, is for this. 

This aspect of common ground was also shared by the other speakers, inter alia, the Commissioner for Health and Food Safety of the European Union, Stella Kyriakides; the Bavarian State Minister for European Affairs and International Affairs, Melanie Huml, and the Bavarian Minister of Science, Bernd Sibler. 

Health as a key issue

At the ‘Symposion Digitale’ (the Digital Symposium) of the Neuburg Discussion Group for Science and Practice on 7th May 2021, the focus was on the topic of health, and in particular the question of how digitalisation will affect healthcare in the future. In addition to representatives from politics, leading personalities from practices also spoke and discussed, such as the outgoing Medical Director of the Passau Clinic, Professor Annegret Kuhn, as well as the CEOs or state managing directors of the largest health insurance funds, the AOK Bayern, Allianz Private Krankenversicherungs-AG and Barmer.

The entire health system is currently undergoing a ‘digital transformation’, concluded Ms. Kyriakides, the EU Commissioner. It is vital that the exchange of data is facilitated, without compromising security. Above all, it is important to think cross-border and European. Like Weber, Ms. Kyriakides attributed a special role to border regions, such as Lower Bavaria, thanks to the collaboration and joint infrastructure already in place.

The Lower Bavaria Medical Campus (Medizincampus Niederbayern)

There was also extensive discussion about the planned Lower Bavaria medical campus, for which the Bavarian Ministry of Science is currently assessing two so-called satellite models. One is the concept of the ‘MedizinCampus Niederbayern’ with an academic centre at the University of Regensburg; the other is the ‘Medical College Niederbayern’ with its connection to the Technische Universität München (TUM) – Technical University of Munich. The University of Passau plans an important part in both models, with its expertise in the fields of digitalisation and artificial intelligence. 

Interfaculty collaboration is a big plus at the University of Passau

The objective of the medical campus is to ensure sustainable medical care in the region, said hospital manager, Professor Kuhn. The Science Minister, Sibler, added that not only is collaboration vital, but that all the Local Bavarian locations need to be involved. Weber, a member of the European Parliament, particularly cited the University of Passau’s strong interfaculty collaboration between computer sciences; the lawyers who offer expertise in data protection and data-use; the Philosophy faculty which deals with ethical issues, and the economic sciences, as a major plus factor. 

Europaabgeordneter Manfred Weber

Sustainability and artificial intelligence as the big, European issue of the future

The subject of health also found its way into the digital event for Europatag (Europe Day) on the 10th May 2021 – Weber considers this to be one of the major issues of the future, along with artificial intelligence and sustainability, which were the focal points of the University of Passau’s Europe Day. 


The challenges of our time can only be mastered together

European Parliamentarian, Manfred Weber

The objective of Europe Day was to organise a short, but lively, debate where people – both from inside and outside the University of Passau – could share their ideas of a future for everyone. In addition to high-ranking politicians, decision-makers, such as Minister of State, Melanie Huml, and the member of the European Parliament, Manfred Weber, 80 other participants joined the virtual Zoom conference – not just from the University of Passau, but from all over Germany, from France, Hungary, Austria, Italy and Romania. As with the topic of health, transdisciplinary thinking is fundamental in the areas of AI and sustainability. “AI is the top issue for shaping the future”, Weber summarised. It can only be tackled in a collaborative approach which takes technological, ethical, legal and economic aspects into account. In Weber’s view, the EU must create a clear regulatory framework within which artificial intelligence technologies and their application can operate.

Sustainability can also only be achieved across borders. In the context of climate policy, Weber referred to the ‘European Green Deal’ and the ‘Two-Degree Target’, according to which the increase in the average global temperature should be limited to a maximum of two degrees Celsius compared to the pre-industrial age: “Europe is the first continent to incorporate these climate targets in law”. The Minister of State, Melanie Huml, called for a European and global approach to climate policy.

Project presentations by students from Passau and Budapest 

The importance of the future of Europe for the University of Passau was demonstrated, inter alia, by the fact that representatives, students and researches from all four faculties were present. 

In two presentations, students highlighted the contribution that young researchers can make to this. On the first focal topic of Europe Day, namely ‘Artificial Intelligence’, three computer science students – doctoral candidate, Kanishka Ghosh Dastidar; master’s student, Manuel Lehner, and bachelor student, Niklas Beierl – spoke about data protection and energy consumption aspects, and about data sovereignty for Europe; according to Dastidar, interpretable AI data is “the most important raw material in the information age”. The objective has to be to achieve an ‘open, free and distributed internet search infrastructure for Europe’. However, the three young scientists also showed how universities can prepare their students for European challenges, such as on the subject of data security, by means of interdisciplinarity, international exchanges and communication with society.

Students of the philosophy faculties of two universities presented their research projects and thoughts on the second key subject, ‘Sustainability’. Doctoral student, Julian Stegemann from the University of Passau, and master’s student, Robert Demendi from Andrássy University, addressed the question entitled ‘Sustainability – Opportunity or Challenge for Europe?’ and showed how research can benefit from European collaborations.

The University of Passau will continue to intensively accompany and co-design the debate on the future of Europe.

Prof. Dr. Christina Hansen (ehemals Schenz)

Professor Christina Hansen

researches diversity and giftedness in an international context

How do layout and re-figuration processes work in (educational) spaces?

How do layout and re-figuration processes work in (educational) spaces?

Professor Christina Hansen holds the Chair of Education (Primary) with a focus on diversity at the University of Passau. Since August 2020, she has been the Vice-President for International Affairs, Europe and Diversity.

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