"Why does one establish a foundation? There are many factors which may have some influence on the decision, but the strongest motivation is certainly the desire to support and foster special matters of concern."

We mourn the loss of Berthold Leibinger (November 26th, 1930 – October 16th, 2018)

Born in November 1930 to a family of art lovers in Stuttgart, Berthold Leibinger trained as a mechanic of surgical instruments at his uncle’s factory after the war. After graduating from secondary school in 1950, he began an apprenticeship as a mechanic at Trumpf near Stuttgart before being accepted into a mechanical engineering program at Stuttgart University of Technology in 1951. After marrying in November 1957, he and his wife Doris left Germany in 1958 for an extended stay in the US, during which he worked as a development engineer at Cincinnati Milling in Wilmington.

In 1961, the family returned to Germany and Berthold Leibinger became head of the engineering division at Trumpf. The years in the United States were definitive for Berthold Leibinger, as were the impressions he later gathered on business trips to Japan. In 1964, Berthold Leibinger joined the management at Trumpf and became shareholder, buying Trumpf shares with the proceeds from his patents and licenses. Little by little, he acquired more and more Trumpf shares. His inventions, such as the nibbler for weld seam preparation, the copy nibbling machine and the introduction of numeric controls for Trumpf sheet metal processing equipment, were a source of great success for the company.

After Theodore Maiman’s presentation of the first laser in 1960, Berthold Leibinger made the trailblazing decision in the 1970s to use this technology for sheet metal processing. Today, Trumpf is the leading manufacturer of lasers and world market leader for laser machine tools. The company has 13,400 employees worldwide and achieved a turnover of 3.6 billion euros during the 2017/18 financial year.

Berthold Leibinger was always eager for knowledge. He filed numerous patents, the last in 2004, when he was 73 years old. In 2014, at the age of 84, Berthold Leibinger received his doctorate from the Vienna University of Technology, writing his dissertation on the subject “The Development of Tool Industries in Germany, Japan and USA – a Comparative Analysis of Social, Structural, Science Policy and Global Influencing Factors” (Die Entwicklung der Werkzeugmaschinenindustrien in Deutschland, Japan und USA: eine vergleichende Analyse sozialer, struktureller, wissenschaftspolitischer und globaler Einflussfaktoren).

Maecenas and Founder

Culture was an integral part of Berthold Leibinger’s life. He considered himself an active patron and played a role in numerous institutions such as the Deutsches Literaturarchiv (German Literature Archive) in Marbach, the Internationale Bachakademie (International Bach Academy), the Internationale-Hugo-Wolf-Akademie (International Hugo Wolf Academy) and the Akademie für gesprochenes Wort (Academy for Spoken Language). He was tireless in his fundraising efforts for many cultural projects and was able to convince many important figures from a wide range of fields to support them.

When Berthold Leibinger established the Berthold Leibinger foundation in 1992, he decided that its mission would focus on four areas. In keeping with his personal interests, these were science, culture, church, and charity. In this, Berthold Leibinger saw himself not only as a devotee, but also as a dedicated patron. This was true for all of the foundation’s missions, for literature and charitable concerns as well as for music and science.

As an innovative engineer and successful entrepreneur, he endowed the Berthold Leibinger Innovationspreis (innovation prize) in 2000. This prize is awarded every two years, honoring outstanding innovations in the field of laser technology. This was followed in 2006 by the Berthold Leibinger Zukunftspreis (future prize), which is awarded for milestones in the development of this technology. A total of 150,000 euros is awarded to recipients of these prizes, which are a part of the foundation’s science mission. Berthold Leibinger always considered technology to be a part of our culture, which is one of the reasons why the Berthold Leibinger foundation created an endowed chair at the University of Stuttgart to study the history of the effects of technology.

Berthold Leibinger’s love of literature and music influenced the foundation’s cultural mission. An eye for quality, curiosity and openness inspired the founder to take innovative steps in this area as well. In 2014, the foundation first presented the Comicbuchpreis (Comic Book Award), which is annually awarded to an unpublished comic written in German– thereby helping to promote this exciting literary genre. As for music, he delighted in the music of Johann Sebastian Bach and the Kunstlied (the Lied).

The Berthold Leibinger foundation recently helped to acquire the Thomas Mann House in California, from where the exiled winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature set about his efforts to influence German history. It is intended to make the house a place where transatlantic relations are strengthened and kept alive.

The foundation also fosters sacred music as part of its church mission and has granted funding for church renovation projects. In keeping with its charitable mission, the foundation supports the hospice Stuttgarter Hospiz and has contributed to the rehabilitation of offenders as well as psychiatric patients.

Over the years, Berthold Leibinger contributed more than 10 million euros of his personal fortune to his foundation and additionally endowed it with a five percent share in Trumpf GmbH + Co. KG. This ensures that the name Berthold Leibinger will continue to stand for the active promotion of the foundation’s mission, even after his death. Since its establishment up to July 2018, the Berthold Leibinger foundation has granted more than 17 million euros in funding for projects. Of this, more than 14,5 million euros have gone to scientific and cultural projects, while 1.5 million has been donated to church projects and about one million to charitable projects.

Honors

For decades, Berthold Leibinger helped shape the economic and technical development in Germany. He furthered the internationalization of medium-sized businesses and was much in demand as a political consultant. He held numerous positions in trade and industry, such as president of the Industrie- und Handelskammer Mittlerer Neckar (Chamber of Industry and Commerce of the mid-Neckar region) in Stuttgart, president of the Verband Deutscher Maschinen- und Anlagenbauer (Mechanical Engineering Industry Association), chair of the Beraterkreis Innovationsforum Baden-Württemberg (Consultative Group of the Innovation Forum of Baden-Württemberg), member of the executive committee of the Bundesverband der Deutschen Industrie (Federation of German Industry) and chair of the Innovationsbeirat (Innovation Advisory Board) of the state government of Baden-Württemberg. He also shared his expertise while on the supervisory boards of such companies as BASF, Deutsche Bank and BMW.

In 1980, Berthold Leibinger was awarded the Bundesverdienstkreuz am Bande (Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany), in 2006 he received the Große Verdienstkreuz mit Stern des Verdienstordens der Bundesrepublik Deutschland (Knight Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany). The state of Baden-Württemberg bestowed the Große Staufermedaille in Gold (Grand Staufer Gold Medal) on him in 2000. Further distinctions he received were: in 2003, the Preis Soziale Marktwirtschaft (Social Market Economy Prize) of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, in 2005, the Werner von Siemens Ring, in 2008, the Deutsche Gründerpreis (German Founders’ Prize) of the Start-up-Initiative (category lifetime achievement), in 2011, the Arthur L. Schawlow Award, in 2013, the Preis für Verständigung und Toleranz (Award for Understanding and Tolerance) of the Jewish Museum Berlin, and, in 2014, the Aachener Ingenieurspreis (Aachen Engineering Award). The Japanese government bestowed the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon, on him in 2016.

Portrait of the founder of the Berthold Leibinger Stiftung on the occassion of the foundation's 20th anniversary.

8'05 min ©2012, Berthold Leibinger Stiftung GmbH
Production: MenschenbilderTV