Courageous Educational Vision Implemented on a Worldwide Scale 2012/09/05 - Leonardo Prize Winner Festo

The owners of the automation company Festo, Dr. Wilfried Stoll and Dr. h.c. Kurt Stoll, will receive the Leonardo – European Corporate Learning Award 2012 in the category “Company Transformation”. The initiators of the award are paying tribute to the brothers' overall work in the area of education, ranging from Festo Didactic and Bionic Learning Network to their responsible dedication to education and further education around the world.

The benchmark for the Leonardo Award is the first laureate Jacques Delors, under whose aegis a four pillar model for education was developed at UNESCO: learning to know, learning to do, learning to live together and learning to be. The Leonardo Award also distinguishes personalities who include science and art in their entrepreneurial dealings, call accustomed models into question and at the same time work in an economically responsible fashion in the spirit of the namesake Leonardo da Vinci.

“We are thrilled by how passionately Dr. Wilfried Stoll and Dr. Kurt Stoll have filled the requirements of holistic learning with life over and over again for many years”, highlights Günther M. Szogs, “Secretary” of the Leonardo Advisory Board and founding member of the “New Club of Paris”. “Their work is powerful proof of the fact that the so-called ‘Leonardo Spirit’ can be implemented in a company environment“. The brothers themselves actually also see themselves in the tradition of Leonardo da Vinci: “Leonardo’s visions of education and his credo to work in an interdisciplinary fashion, to broaden your horizon throughout your life and to remain open to completely new ideas are a mission statement for all of our initiatives”, states Dr. Wilfried Stoll.

Promoting Applied Knowing

The two brothers’ educational initiative began early. They already developed training and advanced training programmes involving the core business of automation technology in the early 60ies. The idea behind it is the fact that new technologies require explanation and that companies and entire economies will only be able to use them properly if the appropriate application know-how is available. Thus Festo Didactic was born.

In the 70ies, the two of them initiated the cooperation with the Bundesinstitut für Berufsbildung (BIBB – Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training) in order to develop educational material for vocational education in Germany. “We intensified the cooperation greatly in 1986 on the occasion of the vocational training and education reform in Germany”, explains Dr. Wilfried Stoll. The idea was to adapt the job outlines to the expected progress in the industry and particularly to develop automation technology further. “In order to achieve that, we fostered contacts on all levels and helped to modernise the contents of the examinations and to align them with the requirements in industrial automation”, continues Dr. Wilfried Stoll.

“We stand for Applied Knowing”, explains Dr. Wilfried Stoll. His and his brother's educational concern is based on solution orientation as a process, and learning by doing. For example, in order to promote problem-solving competences in a team, Festo regularly takes part in the WorldSkills Competition: 40 nations compete in 40 skilled occupations at this vocational olympiad. And in fact, Festo actually begins its efforts at an even earlier stage: In order to generate children's enthusiasm for engineering, the automation company has, amongst others, called into life the "Leonardino + Galilea" project.

This application-oriented approach also comes to bear in the company’s own academy located in Berkheim, in the Saarland and in China. Dr. Wilfried Stoll states the following example: “Our ‘Fit for Change’ courses for the communication abilities of employees and executives, of which we have already carried out 13,000 units, only work because the participants continuously have to implement them in practical situations in between“. The trainers are always professionals from a variety of different company sectors and ensure that the learned contents are then actually implemented.

Exporting Educational Work

Dr. Wilfried Stoll and Dr. h.c. Kurt Stoll also see themselves as initiators for technical education on an international level. “We are, for example, trying to help export the dual education system – for instance with model projects in the Indian city of Coimbatore or in China”, explains Wilfried Stoll. Festo invites Chinese apprentices to work in the company in Jinan and provides them with vocational training in cooperation with a local college and the German Chamber of Foreign Trade. The company is an educational partner on a vocational training level up to a university environment in China too.

Festo maintains good contacts with many international institutions such as UNIDO, UNESCO, the Worldbank or the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ – Germany Society for International Cooperation). Their commitment is currently focused on South America and Asia, where the Stoll brothers already began some of their educational work in the 50ies. But Africa is also coming into closer focus. “We are currently contemplating a future project in the area of education there – for 52 countries”, explains the company’s founder Wilfried Stoll. It involves teachers, teacher training and trying to find people who will attend to the installations and implementations from a technical point of view on site.

“The demands are particularly high, manifold and time-consuming”, underlines Dr. Stoll. Capital is one thing, which enables you to move a lot, but the most important thing is having enough time. “That is why my brother and I have committed ourselves to not taking on any other activities such as supervisory board mandates – for our entire lives – and to devoting such time entirely to technical education and Festo Didactic”, continues Dr. Stoll. And that involves work in terms of travelling, persuading and motivating.

Bionic Learning Network

“Festo partially makes things that Leonardo da Vinci actually envisaged", notes Günther M. Szogs, who is particularly pleased with the interplay of innovative spirit and knowledge. When saying that, he is referring to the company’s activities in the Bionic Learning Network, which tries to transfer natural phenomena to automation technology. “Smart Bird” was created in this network and is an energy-efficient flying model according to the role model of a herring gull. Another example is the “AquaPenguin”: Just like penguins in nature, the Festo's AquaPenguin has a streamlined shape with which it can manoeuvre in the tightest of spaces.

“The creative heads in our company have great freedom of scope in order to occupy themselves with natural phenomena within the framework of the Bionic Learning Network”, explains Wilfried Stoll. “They can learn from nature, which finds an ideal approach for all applications through evolution, keeps regenerating and improving itself throughout the process and knows no waste.“ Searching there for ideas for future products – that is a type of sustainability for him too. But it also involves lateral thinking in order to call things into question. Self-renewal is only possible with the help of education as well as the willingness to address new issues on a regular basis and to free oneself from traditional models. “Trailblazing innovations always start off with brave visions“.

Combining Technology and Art

Through its namesake Leonardo the award also reminds us of the artistic side of learning and knowledge. This aspect is also an issue at Festo: The company developed the Orlando Furioso Opera together with robot artist Roland Olbeter. Olbeter, who makes stage sets for Fura dels Baus and is in action at Olympiads and Expos around the world, developed a sound robot together with the automation company that accompanies an opera singer with live singing.

Visitors to the Hanover Trade Fair could admire the further development of the robot: Sound Machine 2.0, built using Festo technology, is a self-composing system that actually interacts with the audience. A kind of fugue from Bach develops from the input, creating a rather unique melody.

Award Ceremony on the Eve of the HRM Expo

The award ceremony will take place on the eve of the HRM Expo, Europe's largest human resources exhibition: On Monday, 24th September 2012 the laureates Dr. Wilfried Stoll and Dr. h.c. Kurt Stoll will receive their awards at the Grandhotel Schloss Bensberg near Cologne. The laudation by Prof. Dr. Dr. h. c. mult. Johann Löhn, President of the Steinbeis University Berlin, will provide a further highlight at the award ceremony.


To register for the award ceremony please contact:
Sandra Schall
HRM Research Institute GmbH
Rheinkaistrasse 2
68159 Mannheim
Tel: +49 621 40166-335