#DigiWomenKA: Heike Brugger

by Katharina Iyen

Female Role models are important. They point out possibilities, they help you to define goals and we can learn from your experience. In our blog series #DigiWomenKA, Katharina Iyen meets such a role model once a month. model from the Karlsruhe digital industry to find out more about her, her experiences and their commitment. Today she talks to Dr. Heike Brugger, Head of the Energy Policy Business Unit in the Competence Center Energy Policy and Energy Markets at the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI.

I meet Heike Brugger together with loving four-legged friend at the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI in the Technology Park in Rintheim. The The institute’s rooms are bright and open, resembling a coworking space. Space: Lots of natural light, a loft-like atmosphere, colorful paintings and Green plants characterize the place. Behind glass office walls, I can see large screens, some of the researchers work standing up. Heike’s sweet bitch Bascha fits perfectly into this relaxed ambience. In the open kitchen, the scientist a cup of tea, we are immediately on first-name terms, the atmosphere between us is very relaxed. I like Brugger immediately, because she is easy-going and comes across as very warm with her open laugh.

Now I’m really curious about the person I’m talking to and eager to find out more. Heike Brugger was born and grew up on Lake Constance. Her father, like her grandfather, is a tax consultant. Both come from the Lake Constance region, while their mother, a librarian, moved here from the Rhineland. Despite his mother’s exile, Brugger’s Rhenish cheerful nature is clearly evident. But her father doesn’t necessarily fit the stereotype of a tax consultant either, as she reports: “Before I was born, my father hitchhiked to Algeria and my mother drove through Afghanistan in a VW bus.” She seems to have been born with a thirst for exploration and openness.

These also occur during their training come to light. Heike Brugger originally studied to become a teacher for Math and physics at the University of Konstanz. “Mathematics has always logical thinking, asking questions and learning about them,” recalls they are. But combining natural sciences with math and politics appealed to me. them additionally. Out of this interest, she did math and politics eventually become their main subjects, with physics as a minor. “A broad field, in which I can combine my different interests, I was important, which is why I wrote my final thesis on energy policy”, adds the natural scientist. The state examination was followed by a doctorate in political and administrative science with a scholarship from the Heinrich Böll Foundation. In 2018, her work and research interests led her to from Lake Constance to the fan-shaped city, where she worked as a senior researcher at the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI and since March will head the Energy Policy business area in 2021.

DigiWomen Heike Brugger in conversation with Katharina Iyen. Photo: Heike Brugger
#DigiWomenKA Heike Brugger in conversation with Katharina Iyen. Photo: Heike Brugger

New trends, data, digitalization: Understanding the energy transition

The Karlsruhe resident appreciates the urban flair and the many green spaces of their new home, even if they Lake Constance and thus the proximity to the water. When I asked her that the area around Karlsruhe, with its bathing lakes and the Alb, is also so has a lot of water to offer, she waves it off: “I’m very involved. I often hear how beautiful the Karlsruhe area is, but I rarely come here. out of the city center. But since last year I have had a garden in the Pfinztal and I very much hope that this will now gradually change.”

Now, of course, I’m curious and would like to know more about what Brugger is so busy with. The answer is impressive: Brugger regularly speaks in lectures, radio programs and podcasts, for example on the energy requirements of social media, streaming services and data centers. With In her current research project newTRENDs, she is investigating at European level, how new social trends are influencing the demand for energy. of the future. This is intended to facilitate the management of such trends in line with the Paris Agreement and the long-term climate and energy targets of the European Union by political decision-makers. “In our The aim of research is to understand what the future demand for energy among other things, what increased digitalization means for the demand for energy.”

As an example, she cites the sensible use of waste heat from data centers: “We ask ourselves: What standards do data centers have to meet? What requirements can and must we place on ask them? But also the question of how we can use machine learning and working with large amounts of data to improve our own work.” Yours Institute advises, among others, the European Commission in negotiations on new guidelines for energy efficiency. “We do the balancing act between Basic research and policy advice. One of the research focuses is on on energy demand from private households as well as trade, commerce and Services. Another focus of our research is on how we can Shaping the transition to a digital, sustainable world in a socially just way.”

Katharina Iyen visits Heike Brugger at the Fraunhofer Institute ISI in Karlsruhe and is impressed by the atmosphere. Photo: Heike Brugger.
Katharina Iyen visits Heike Brugger at the Fraunhofer Institute ISI in Karlsruhe and is impressed by the atmosphere. Photo: Heike Brugger

Energy transition: A social issue

That consumers in real time can read off how much electricity or gas they consume every day, they would have the technologies. Although they are fully developed, they are still being pushed by lobbying. blocked by the energy industry. “In terms of our energy consumption, we are we are all somehow flying blind. One year later you get the Settlement from the previous year? This is no longer in keeping with the times and lacks transparency. That I don’t have access to my own consumption data, the fatal thing about situation and must change!” explains Brugger. Data plays a role here a central role. “Among other things, we need a much stronger right to our data, so that you can see at much shorter intervals what you need for a energy consumption and which behavior has what effect. This empowers us as Consumers.”

This ties in with a central theme their work. The social issue of the energy transition, because this The central issues of social justice are linked to this indispensable necessity. “We can’t say that we are now making policies that reduce energy consumption. reduced without really looking at what affects what and how. population groups and who consumes what.” With her work they contribute to shaping the energy transition in an inclusive way. A sustainable Shaping life and everyday life should not be a privilege for the few. Yours The drive is to create the energy transition for everyone. And this is what she means literally: “But that also means taking SUV drivers with you.”

Strengths and weaknesses

I would like to know where the daughter of a tax consultant and a librarian, a woman with an academic family background, derives her strong interest in social justice. She explains this with her life’s journey. “After graduating from high school, I went to Ghana for eight months to do voluntary service – and returned pregnant. I was in shock at first, and at the age of 18 it threw my plans into disarray. “However, her family gave her great support, which helped her to pursue her career. “I knew that motherhood would not mean giving up my ambitions. I am very grateful to my parents for that.”

Heike Brugger has an interesting life story that has sensitized her to a responsible leadership role in which she promotes female colleagues in particular. Photo: Heike Brugger
Heike Brugger has an interesting life story that has sensitized her to a responsible leadership role in which she promotes female colleagues in particular. Photo: Heike Brugger

She is also grateful that her family provided her with a safe space that shielded her from negative reactions. “Today I am more stable, but back then I would have been very affected and I don’t know how it would have affected me.” Of course, such an experience leaves its mark. I would like to know how Brugger was shaped by these experiences, what strengths she was able to develop through her experiences.

Smiling, she explains after a short Consideration: “Networking and networked thinking, making connections and Creating synergies are definitely strengths.” She is particularly proud of her completed degree, her doctorate and her experience in the Career at the Fraunhofer Institute. In particular, because they have been She is the single mother of her daughter from the age of six. “I get a lot Appreciation from my team and doctoral students. They feel comfortable with their I’m very happy about that, which is very important to me.” On the subject of However, Brugger believes there is still room for improvement in time management. it takes longer than expected. “I blame it on the fact that I’m too I am optimistic – I always plan for the best-case scenario,” she adds.

Attractiveness of STEM professions for women increase

On the subject of single parents mother, I would like to come back again. Because it seems to me that Brugger really does occupy a special position. Women are in STEM-related professions are still significantly underrepresented anyway. I would like to know how, in her view, STEM professions can be successfully more accessible to women. She names the following as the central adjusting screw visibility and promotion. “Despite the many people in my environment, bosses and colleagues who supported me, it was rarely I was really proactively offered a new role.” Your Doctoral supervisor assumed that she would not do her doctorate with a state examination anyway can. That’s why he didn’t even think to ask his student about it. “When I asked him about it, he only realized that I also had to do math and studied physics and thus gained valuable interdisciplinary knowledge. bring with me.”

She fears that women could miss out on important opportunities because male colleagues often take precedence if they do not put themselves on the radar of their superiors. However, this is not a goal-oriented approach and is actually the task of the manager. She would therefore like to set a good example in her position and handle this more sensitively: “I’m paying more attention to actively approaching women, making offers and suggestions, even – or especially – when male colleagues simply want to grab one or two opportunities. And of course I encourage women to put themselves forward.”

Cover photo: Heike Brugger