They break new ground, are free in spirit and set the pace today that will make the world a better place tomorrow. 30 years of FOCUS, 30 people who give us confidence – and who we present to you here (and as a series during the anniversary year).


Reckwitz, who teaches in Berlin, is one of the world’s leading sociologists. The professor analyzes social realities and their changes. To do this, he organizes human interaction, sets reference and vanishing points, discusses, discards. In this way, new thesis-like thoughts and ideas are created that are heard around the world. Completed theories are not the primary goal, its results are more fluid and dynamic than usual sociological products.

In his main work, “The Society of Singularities,” the 52-year-old analyzes why the universal of modernity has evidently lost its appeal and has given way to a striving for uniqueness. In the attention markets, Reckwitz is an attraction, he himself is proof of the desire for uniqueness – and has thus arrived in the cultural capitalism that he describes.


He’s called the “Lord of the Towers”, which of course he refuses because he also thinks up buildings that aren’t towers. For example, the headquarters of the Chinese state television company CCTV in Beijing, which consists of, well, two leaning towers that are connected at the top in such a way that one has to think of a kind of standing rectangle. Or The Interlace in Singapore, a huge residential complex that looks like several blocks have been stacked on top of each other.

The King Power Mahanakhon in Bangkok is a classic tower that seems to be crumbling. Maybe that’s why Scheeren builds towers so often because the orders often come from Asia, where, as is well known, there is so little space in the cities that you have no choice but to build upwards.

After working for Rem Koolhaas’ Office for Metropolitan Architecture for many years, he now runs his own office, the Ole Scheeren Group, with offices in Beijing, Hong Kong, Berlin and Bangkok. Only six of the 12 projects currently under construction, according to its website, are towers.

start-up promoter

Germany as one of the leading start-up nations? If anyone can do it, then Helmut Schönenberger, head of UnternehmerTUM GmbH in Munich. Launched in 2002 with funds from BMW heiress Susanne Klatten, the non-profit company has promoted around 500 companies in the past ten years alone, including today’s giants such as Celonis and Flixmobility. He is now trying to transfer his recipe to the whole of Germany. More future was rare.

Nanorobot researcher

Lots of people can build robots, but hardly anyone builds robots as small as Simone Schürle-Finke, 37, from Ulm. At the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich, the professor is developing microscopic machines that are introduced into the body and transport medication. Schürle-Finke’s robots are covered with a metallic layer and are steered to the focus of the disease by magnets. For example, tumors can be specifically combated.


With their Netflix hit “Dark” they achieved what nobody expected from a German series production: an international success that led to a large number of articles in the US media, for example, which explained to the readers how Netflix actually does the Subtitle function activated. Subtitles were then also decisive for the latest series by Jantje Friese and Baran bo Odar, which has to be imagined as a grandiose Babylonian confusion from twelve different languages.

That was necessary, after all the series was about a ship full of immigrants and emigrants trying to cross the Atlantic. As with Dark, the two have staged the story as a mystery at least as inscrutable as Netflix’s sad decision to cancel 1899 after just one season. It is said that less than 50 percent of the viewers who started the series actually watched it to the end.

On the other hand, “1899” topped the Netflix charts in around 50 countries after it was launched, and was second on the streamer’s overall chart for three weeks. If no other provider takes care of the matter, the ship will probably never reach its destination. Bo Odar and Friese, on the other hand, show that series and films from Germany can be of international interest if they go beyond the classics of war, Nazis and the Stasi.


Marina Weisband was once a politician of the Pirate Party – today the party has gone under and Ms. Weisband much more than that. Anyone who follows her level-headed comments on Twitter, hears her speeches, sees her on talk shows will recognize a reflective intellectual who does not come at any price want to push through what you think yourself, but want to enrich the debates of the time.

Her vita as a refugee child from Ukraine gives her credibility. With her comments, she would have what it takes to be Federal President, not yet at her age – but should one day be looking for a clever, free spirit for Bellevue – how about her?

Pioneer of artificial intelligence

Born in Solingen, he went from Hildesheim and Bonn to Stanford University in California. He not only advanced his subject of artificial intelligence theoretically. In 2005, a robotic vehicle he developed won an award from the US Department of Defense.

At Google, Thrun researched at central positions, was involved in autonomous cars and the miniature computer Google Glass. He is currently working as an entrepreneur on an air taxi. A high-calibre jury chose the 55-year-old pioneer from Germany as “Vordenker 2022”.

Cannes President

She can deal with resentment, perhaps even her greatest strength: the daughter of the former president of the Central Council of Jews, Charlotte Knobloch, has had a meteoric career in the media, rather unnoticed by the German public.

She was a top manager at WarnerMedia and is the chairman of the board of directors of the streaming service Deezer. Emmanuel Macron has now promoted the 59-year-old to the post of president in Cannes, the world’s most important film festival. A German woman? Oh la la! France’s cultural establishment is fuming.


It was the European Championship game against Hungary 2021. Germany was 1-2 behind. The next national football catastrophe was looming, the next elimination in the preliminary round of a major tournament after the 2018 World Cup.

Jogi Löw, who was strangely hesitant in the late phase of his national coaching career in 2014, made a decision that had a signal effect: He brought on Jamal Musiala from Munich, who was only 18 at the time, and he helped Germany into the round of 16 with a spectacularly courageous dribble. The fact that this was lost against England was perhaps also due to the fact that the relapsed, timid Löw brought Musiala far too late.

The experts (and no longer just the locals) are certain: Without Musiala, nothing will work in the national team and at FC Bayern in the future. With his snotty, clever style of play, he is the beacon of hope for the battered German football – and a candidate for the title of the best player in the world. Sometime. Possibly soon.


For some he is one of the best pianists of our time, for others a tireless commentator on current events whose tweets are not well received by everyone. That doesn’t have to be a contradiction. Even those who effortlessly shake Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations off the wrist can have strong opinions on politics and society. And if you don’t like those opinions, it doesn’t make Levit’s piano playing any worse – it makes him more interesting as a person.

Star chef in the restaurant “ernst”

The Canadian has been running the restaurant with eight seats in Berlin-Wedding for five years. With his micro-seasonal cuisine, he has reached a level of conceptual maturity that is unparalleled in Germany. A culinary evening at “ernst” is like going to the opera, with each of the reduced courses uncompromisingly orchestrated.

The focus is on the best products, Japanese techniques and, above all, what is a rarity in top German cuisine: a clear, unmistakable vision. Pioneering – from someone who is just 29.

top official

Why is this good Herr Müller important? Because he is the boss of 3000 clever employees? Because big companies obey him at every word? Because the world would be even more expensive and complicated without him? All of this is part of his job and therefore a matter of course. As President of the Federal Network Agency, he fights against monopolies, the ugly sisters of the functioning market.

The special thing is not THAT he does this task, but: HOW. Müller works meticulously like a bureaucrat, inquisitively like a scientist, pushy like a lobbyist. He manages to dress complex content in understandable sentences – that was what the economist proved during the threatening gas shortage. Regulation is always playing with fire.

Too much state intervention puts an unnecessary burden on companies, and too little regulation leads to monopoly in network-related sectors such as energy or telecommunications. Müller finds a balance. A gift with a future.

Head of the Munich Security Conference

From now on, when global politics meets in Bavaria’s state capital, he will be the new host: Christoph Heusgen will head the Munich Security Conference, one of the most important international forums for foreign and security policy, from this year. Hardly anyone has more experience in this area than Angela Merkel’s longtime adviser.

Only – in this capacity the top diplomat had to be rather secretive. Now he can step into the limelight himself – at a time when Europe’s security is particularly threatened and when foreign policy has to be readjusted. Especially those of the Germans. At least since his time as UN ambassador in New York, Heusgen’s concern has been the enforcement of international law.

He is convinced that the world is not threatened by a new system of competition between East and West, but rather that between violence and law. He doesn’t want to believe in the right of the strongest, and that’s not a phrase for him. It is believed that he also uses his job for this conviction.

IT specialist

She is a pioneer in the fight against an invisible enemy. Computer science professor Claudia Eckert, 63, from the Technical University of Munich has dedicated herself to IT security. In Germany, numerous big players rely on her advice – from companies like Bosch to banks, authorities, insurance companies and the military. This is also badly needed. In 2021 alone, cyber criminals caused damage of 223 billion euros to the German economy.

Physics professor and future energy researcher

The scientist from the Technical University of Darmstadt is working on making mankind’s dream of a fusion power plant come true. The USA recently reported that, for the first time, more energy was being released than was invested in the fusion of atomic nuclei in the laboratory. The difference was tiny.

The company “Focused Energy”, which Roth co-founded, wants to build a demonstration system with a hundredfold energy gain by the end of the decade. Nuclear fusion is considered a less risky alternative to nuclear fission.

Texts by: Corinna Baier, Hannah Bode, Jobst-Ulrich Brand, Gudrun Dometeit, Sonja Fröhlich, Andreas Grosse Halbuer, Matthias Jauch, Barbara Jung-Arntz, Michael Kneissler, Markus Krischer, Kurt-Martin Mayer, Carla Neuhaus, Harald Peters, Peter Steinkirchner, Thomas Tuma, and Lara Wernig