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Falling Walls Circle – Plenary Table: The Future of Clean Energy Technologies: Accelerating the Transition to Carbon Neutrality

Falling Walls Foundation, Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) | André Christl, Bernd Rech, Tejs Vegge, Jennifer Porto, Ting Xu

As the global climate crisis worsens and Russia’s war against Ukraine causes significant global impact, a fundamental shift in geopolitics and energy policy is taking place. Developing new materials is a core element in the innovation cycle to accelerate the process of energy transition.

Complex data-driven insights can be leveraged using artificial intelligence (AI) to discover new materials faster than ever before. In this context, AI can be a key accelerator to support the next generation of clean energy and storage technologies. This session aims to discuss how we can further accelerate the process of energy transition to become a climate-neutral circular economy by developing next-generation energy technologies.

Preparation of the event is supported by Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin.

This event will be accessible for our digital audience by livestream free of charge.


Falling Walls Circle Tables gives the spotlight to world-leading scientists and science strategists, along with policy-makers from academia, business and politics to shape the agenda of the future of science.

About the Venue
Radialsystem – Lecture Hall
Holzmarktstraße 33
Berlin, 10243 Germany

Since April 2017, André Christl is CEO of the Global Business Unit Heraeus Precious Metals. He studied Business Administration at the University of Cologne. Afterwards, he gained broad experience in senior management positions with a focus on Finance and Treasury in the pharma industry and at German automotive supplier Schaeffler. In 2009, André joined Heraeus as Head of Group Finance. Later he managed the Trading Division and headed the Global Business Unit Metal Management from 2015 on.

Bernd Rech

Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin

Bernd Rech is the Scientific Director of Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin für Materialien und Energie (HZB) and professor in the Photovoltaics Department of the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Technische Universität Berlin.

He was co-initiator of the Energy Materials in-situ Laboratory EMIL at the Berlin storage ring BESSY II. Together with Prof. Robert Schlögl (Fritz Haber Institute) he leads the joint project CatLab, which uses BESSY II specifically for applications in catalysis and green hydrogen technologies.

Previously, he headed the Silicon Photovoltaics Institute at HZB from 2006 to 2017. The focus of his research has been on the development of both high-efficiency and low-cost thin-film silicon solar cells and new material combinations for tandem solar cells. From 2008 to 2020, he was the spokesperson for the Helmholtz Association’s Renewable Energies program. Bernd Rech studied physics at Heidelberg University and RWTH Aachen and received his doctorate from RWTH Aachen.

Bernd Rech also serves on numerous committees, such as the supervisory board of the Institute for Solar Energy Research in Hameln and the board of trustees of the Baden-Württemberg Center for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research. He is a member of the board of the Energy Working Group of the German Physical Society, and since 2017 he has been an elected member of the German Academy of Science and Engineering (acatech). In 2018, he received the Apple of Inspiration, an award of the President of Slovenia.

Prof. Tejs Vegge is Head of Section for Autonomous Materials Discovery at the Technical University of Denmark. He is a leading expert in autonomous materials discovery, advanced battery materials, and electrocatalysis, and he serves as the coordinator of the large-scale European project Battery Interface Genome – Materials Acceleration Platform (BIG-MAP). Prof. Vegge is also an appointed member of the Danish Academy of Technical Sciences and the Danish Government’s Commission on Green Transportation. He has received a number of awards, including the Mission Innovation Champion Award (2019).

Jennifer Porto was born and raised in Iowa, and holds degrees in music performance from Iowa State University and the Cleveland Institute of Music. She was a Fulbright recipient at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater in Leipzig, Germany, and joined the soloist ensemble of the Oper Leipzig after completing her formal education, and was an avid performer of contemporary music. She co-founded a performance ensemble whose focus was cross-cultural engagement, and created a series of one-woman performances that were met with enthusiastic audience response. She pivoted to the field of higher education, teaching university-level courses for CIEE (the Council on International Educational Exchange) in Berlin, and is an experienced moderator in fields including sustainability, entrepreneurship, culture, and education. She recently joined the staff of New York University in Berlin as the Arts Coordinator.

Ting Xu

University of California, Berkeley

Prof. Ting Xu received Ph.D in Polymer Science and Engineering at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 2004 and postdoc training at the University of Pennsylvania and NIST. She jointed University of California, Berkeley in 2007 in the Department of Material Sciences and Engineering and Department of Chemistry. Her research focuses on rational design of polymer-based hybrid materials for life science, environment and energy applications. She is a fellow of American Physical Society, American Chemical Society and serves on the Board of Directors of Materials Research Society. She is an awardee of 3M Nontenured Faculty Award; DuPont Young Professor Award; Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award; Li Ka Shing Woman Research Award; Camille-Dreyfus Scholar-Teacher Award; ACS Arthur K. Doolittle Award; Bakar Fellow and 2021 Bakar Prize. She was named as one of “Brilliant 10” by Popular Science Magazine. Her team won the grand prize of the 2021 Create the Future Design Contest.

Norbert Holtkamp

Stanford University

Presently Mr. Holtkamp is a Professor of Particle and Particle Astro Physics and Photon Science at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory at Stanford University which he joined in 2010. He was SLAC’s Deputy Laboratory Director since September 2014. He led the conception and oversaw the implementation of the multi-laboratory partnerships of several DOE and DOE/NSF projects. Since 2019 he is also the project director for the $1.1B LCLS-II Free Electron Laser construction project, build by 5 US national laboratories, which transitions to operation in 2022. He continues working on strategic initiatives aligned with the Laboratories and Stanford’s agenda and integrated in the Department of Energy’s strategic plans.


He has an M.S. equivalent degree in physics from the University of Berlin and a Ph.D. in physics from the Technical University in Darmstadt, Germany. His research interests include synchrotron radiation and neutron sources, fusion, high-energy colliders, linear accelerators, storage rings and accelerator-based neutrino physics. He was a member of the advisory panel for High Energy Physics at the National Academy of Science (EPP 2010). He chaired the Particle Accelerator Conference in 2005, and the Linac Conference Chair in 2006. In June 2008 Mr. Holtkamp received the Gersh Budker prize of the European Physical Society for recent, significant contribution to the accelerator field referring to the success of the SNS project

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