Donor, philanthropist, business angel – An interview with Dr. Karl Weick

February 1, 2022 | Portrait of the philanthropist Dr. Karl Weick

Dr. Karl Weick has spent many years supporting the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS. Following a successful career, he and his wife founded the Stiftungsfonds Weick, an endowment fund that makes annual donations to Fraunhofer IIS and has financed prizes for several competitions at the institute. He also provides his support to numerous other projects, ideas and people. We asked him what inspired his dedication and commitment to these various causes – and what he would like his endowment fund to achieve in the future.


Dr. Weick, when you look back over your highly successful career, which moments stand out most clearly??

I come from a farming and wine-growing background in the German city of Worms. Once I finished school, I headed to Geisenheim to study viticultural engineering, which I initially thought was the industry for me. But by the time I finished my studies, I had developed a passion for marketing, so I decided to take the next step by doing a degree and doctorate in agricultural science and business administration at Justus Liebig University Giessen.


I went on to spend over 30 years working in product development and application consulting at BASF, including 15 years as the head of sales and marketing in the same area. In my last four years at BASF, I was in charge of CRM and e-commerce – and that’s when I realized just how much I wanted to pass on all my experience to the younger generation once I retired: from product development and application consulting through to sales, marketing and e-commerce. I hadn’t been retired for long when I came across the Northern Bavaria Network – now known as BayStartUP – which the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft is also involved in.

You played a dual role at the Northern Bavaria Network, acting as both a juror and a business angel. What kinds of responsibilities did you have?

Our aim was to support young founders, and BayStartUP continues to pursue that goal to this day. In my role as a juror, I evaluated the sales and marketing aspects of over 130 business plans. I found it really exciting to see what young people were doing, especially those who were fresh out of university. I was also a business angel for around ten companies, which means that I contributed not just my coaching skills, but also my expertise and financial support. I even stayed on for a while in three of the companies as founder or co-founder.


My work at the Northern Bavaria Network introduced me to so many amazing ideas. For example, I remember one 24-year-old who had developed an indoor navigation system that was totally groundbreaking at the time. He was tremendously talented on the technology side, but he clearly lacked sales and marketing skills – so that was where my assistance came in useful! It was around that time that I heard about a similar project at Fraunhofer IIS. The technological aspects were very similar to our indoor navigation system, and that’s ultimately what led to my first contact with Fraunhofer IIS.

That initial contact eventually turned into a long-standing partnership. Where does your enthusiasm for the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft stem from?

The more I worked with the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, the more I realized what a giant think tank it is – an amazing store of ideas and solutions that can also be easily and efficiently accessed by start-ups. That was the quality I admired from the very beginning of my relationship with Fraunhofer IIS. After that, whenever I was working with somebody and we realized that we were reaching the limits of our technological capabilities and we didn’t have the resources to take our ideas any further, then the solution was clear: we would approach the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft together, tap into that impressive think tank and ask them if they had anything up their sleeve that could help us.  And I have to say that we were never disappointed!

It was after you left the Northern Bavaria Network that you and your wife decided to set up an endowment fund. What led you to take that step?

I had been at the Northern Bavaria Network for almost 15 years and I was approaching 70; it had been a fantastic time, but I realized that I needed to move on to something else. But my experience with Fraunhofer IIS had been so tremendously positive that I wanted to continue supporting its development. So my wife and I decided to set up a foundation to support Fraunhofer IIS in Erlangen, and that’s how the Stiftungsfonds Weick was born under the motto of “Friends of science – friends of Fraunhofer.” The annual income earned by the fund has helped support the institute ever since. Later on, however, I became less satisfied with this model due to the general direction of interest rates.

So I decided to call Professor Albert Heuberger. I told him how pleased I was to have collaborated with Fraunhofer on so many successful projects, and indicated that I would like to find other ways of providing Fraunhofer IIS with financial support. He was equally enthusiastic and we soon agreed on the best way to move forward. Heuberger proposed a two-pronged strategy: first, that I could offer a prize for applied solutions that had great potential for commercial success and, second, that I could fund a similar prize for employees who have distinguished themselves through their achievements. And that’s how the institute started offering its Fraunhofer Prize.

Where do you see your foundation going in the future?

We’ve now arranged for a six-figure endowment to be set up in Munich as part of the Fraunhofer-Zukunftsstiftung (Fraunhofer Future Foundation). At the same time, we’ve agreed to donate an annual sum as an expendable endowment. This is particularly attractive for the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, because those funds can be invested directly in ongoing projects within a five-year timeframe, for example. My goal in the future is to find even more donors to support our endowment fund. That would allow us to support plenty more fascinating ideas, people and projects at Fraunhofer.

Dr. Weick, we would once again like to express our gratitude to you and your wife for the support you have shown to Fraunhofer IIS and the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. And thanks for talking to us today!

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