The Max Planck Society received an offer to establish its first foreign institute in the US: On Sept. 11, Florida's Palm Beach County unanimously proposed the sum of $86.9 million for the next 10 years. In the coming weeks, it is expected that the State of Florida will contribute funds to complete the financing, and that specific negotiations on the establishment of an institute will take place.
The County's decision paved the way for the equally necessary approval by the State of Florida, which intends to boost the sum provided by the County to a total of $190 million. This would facilitate the creation of a Max Planck Institute in the life sciences on the Jupiter Campus of Florida Atlantic University (FAU), in the immediate vicinity of the Scripps Research Institute.
"Yesterday's decision is a great compliment for the Max Planck Society. We are very pleased that the County Commissioners have demonstrated such great faith in us," said MPS President Gruss after the vote. With the recent addition of Scripps, and now perhaps also the Max Planck Society, the State of Florida aims to quickly gain a place in the premier league of the world's biotechnology hubs. The state hopes to attract yet further internationally renowned research institutes and biotech companies to its emerging biotechnology center. This would allow Florida to expand its basis of wealth and thus ensure its long-term economic success.
The Scripps Research Institute, internationally renowned in the field of biomedicine, opened its doors on the Florida Atlantic University campus just three years ago. The prospect of close cooperation on a shared campus with Scripps is the primary reason for the Max Planck Society's interest in Palm Beach County. "Scripps and Max Planck are a dream team for innovative basic research in biomedicine," says Gruss. The offer extended to the Max Planck Society is also supported by the local Florida Atlantic University (FAU). The FAU, the fastest-growing university in the U.S., will be a key partner in educating junior researchers and will provide the land for the new construction.
First Institute on American Soil
"We met with incredible support and enthusiasm for our research in Florida, not only on the business and political front, but also in the private sector," says MPS President Peter Gruss. "Florida offers a particularly dynamic environment for outstanding basic research." If the State were to now follow the positive vote of the County and also agree to provide funding for the institute, specific contract negotiations could get under way and the institute could take up its work as early as 2008. The institute would eventually have three departments in which 135 employees from all over the world could carry out their research. At the same time, the Max Planck Society wants to offer a visiting scientist program and provide lab space for internationally renowned researchers to carry out their work.
"The Max Planck Florida institute would give us an independent foothold in the world's most important country for science," says Peter Gruss, who views the negotiations in the U.S. as part of a wider internationalization of the Max Planck Society. "We want to export the Max Planck success model and step up our international activities in Europe, the U.S. and Asia." In this context, forms of cooperation can range from partner institutes all the way to full-fledged Max Planck Institutes.
Of the currently 78 Max Planck Institutes, three are located outside of Germany: the Bibliotheca Hertziana in Rome, the Art History Institute in Florence and the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen, The Netherlands. In addition, the MPS co-founded a Max Planck Partner Institute in Shanghai in partnership with the Chinese Academy of Sciences.