Building on a long-standing tradition within our company, the promotion of scientific education and culture is a core element of our commitment to society. It enables us to promote characteristics that are very valuable to us as a high-tech company, namely creativity, enthusiasm for new discoveries, curiosity, and the courage to transcend boundaries. To tap into these key drivers, we sponsor educational and cultural initiatives at many of our sites, grant scholarships and further learning in specific subjects.
Our commitment: The principles of our community involvement
When it comes to supporting creativity and inspiration within our communities, we align our efforts with our Group Policy on Contributions to Society, which was revised in 2019. More information is available under “Community involvement”.
Advancing educational initiatives worldwide
In a quest to spark the interest of young people in science, we hold competitions, recognize special achievements and offer opportunities for hands-on learning.
For example, we support and hold a variety of STEM competitions in Germany. As the host of the competition in the German federal state of Hesse, we have been supporting the “Jugend forscht” competition for more than 35 years. In 2019, 72 young researchers took part. In addition, we support the “Internationale Biologie-Olympiade Hessen”, the “Internationale Chemie-Olympiade Hessen und Thüringen”, the “Chemie – die stimmt!” competition, the one-week “Erfinderlabor” as well as the German-wide “Tag der Mathematik” with 100 school students from the Darmstadt region. Apart from helping out with funding, we assist by hosting the competitions, offering site tours and allowing the competition participants to conduct research in the junior labs we support at the Technical University of Darmstadt (Germany).
Recognizing and promoting special accomplishments
In 2019, we granted awards to the three best high school students in STEM subjects at each of 25 schools in the Rhine-Main region. Together with the journal “Chemie in unserer Zeit”, we also awarded the annual “Julius Adolph Stöckhardt Prize” for the first time in 2019. This annual prize recognizes dedicated chemistry teachers who present chemistry curricula in an especially engaging manner, thereby spurring interest in chemistry classes.
Junior Labs at the Technical University Darmstadt
We regularly invite young people to our Junior Labs, which we operate together with the Technical University of Darmstadt, to discover the joy of experimentation. Linking classroom lessons with the latest topics and state-of-the-art research methods, the initiative encompasses different focus areas. In the course of 2019, approximately 2,500 school students worked on research experiments here. In addition, we operate the “livfe BioLab”, where around 1,500 pupils conducted biology experiments under professional guidance in 2019.
Continuing education for teachers and expanding school partnerships
As part of our school sponsorship program, we helped approximately 50 schools in Darmstadt (Germany) and the vicinity thereof to conduct experiment-based science projects in 2019.
We also support teachers by offering professional development courses and suggesting teaching techniques. In 2019, we again hosted a science conference attended by more than 100 teachers from the region.
Building on long-standing school partnerships in Germany, we are now also putting our experience to use worldwide. By focusing on training for teachers, we can help them to design exciting lessons that will spark their students’ curiosity in science.
In 2019, we focused on continuing our project in Kenya, where we are applying a simple educational concept for children (“Finding out with Fred”), which combines scientific education with imaginative stories. In order to develop the curricula for the lessons, we work with partner organizations, who help us to adapt the experiments to local circumstances. All the experimental designs in the individual teaching blocks are possible with inexpensive materials that are easy to obtain locally. We are partnering with the Kenya Chemical Society here.
SPARK: igniting a passion for science in the next generation
As part of our global volunteer program SPARK, employees from our Life Science business can dedicate their time and expertise to assist schoolchildren in hands-on learning. The goal is to ignite a passion for science and inspire them to consider a Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics (STEM)-related career. SPARK activities include our Curiosity Labs™ program, which engages students through dynamic, interactive lessons. In 2019, the program reached more than 8,000 students from around the world. We also offer tours of our production sites, career panel events and more. In addition to providing materials for interactive lessons, we collaborate closely with education experts around the world to ensure that SPARK aligns with specific local requirements and that it complements existing curricula.
In 2019, as part of SPARK, our Life Science business ran its third year-long Curiosity Cube™ tour across North America. Consisting of a shipping container retrofitted into a mobile science lab, the Curiosity Cube™ provides a learning environment that immerses visitors of all ages in specific science topics through hands-on experiments and state-of-the-art technology. Supporting the daily work of teachers by offering tools and resources that many schools lack, the tour focuses on schools with underprivileged students, which account for 94% of the facilities visited.
The hands-on science experiments offered in 2019 focused on the periodic table of elements. The students learned about elements in nature, technology and the human body. The 2019 Curiosity Cube™ was equipped with digital microscopes, 3D printers and virtual reality gear. In total, the Curiosity Cube™ traveled 48,000 kilometers across North America in 2019 and engaged students in 99 communities. Following the visit, 92% of students improved their understanding of life science terminology.
Throughout 2019, over 2,300 of our employees volunteered more than 19,400 hours via the overall SPARK Global Volunteer Program that also includes the Curiosity Cube™, engaging over 66,500 students worldwide.
Partnering with Seeding Labs
In 2019, we further increased our support of Seeding Labs, a non-governmental organization that provides scientists in low- and middle-income countries with laboratory equipment, training and opportunities to collaborate with other experts in their field. To date, we have enabled the organization to equip 76 universities in 36 low- and middle-income countries with 265 metric tons of used but fully functioning laboratory equipment, providing access to the global scientific community and helping to accelerate scientific research. The goal is to expand the access to vital resources and help the global scientific community advance scientific research.
We are the exclusive sponsor of the new online platform hosted by Seeding Labs, TeleScience. It features educational videos and training sessions led by our Life Science employees, who share techniques and tips on a wide range of science topics. TeleScience developed 18 videos and has been visited by more than 2,300 users from 117 countries since its launch in 2018.
Pioneering hands-on learning
We have been engaged in a signature partnership with Technorama since 2017. Located in Switzerland, this organization is the third largest science center in Europe and a pioneer of practical, self-directed learning. To date, 76 of our employees have participated in six newly developed science experiments for over 1,000 visitors through events called Technorama Days. Through our partnership, over 3,000 teachers have benefited from enhanced advisory and training services. We also helped to convert wet laboratories into larger, state-of-the-art spaces, giving more than 100,000 visitors per year hands-on chemistry experiences. We have developed ten unique workshop themes for these laboratories and held 500 workshops.
Clean water for China
Our partnership program with the One Foundation charity fund aims to provide safe drinking water to schools in China, where over 40 million students across 114,000 rural schools lack access to such. We donate one Chinese renminbi (approximately US$ 0.14) a day on behalf of each of our employees in China. The money is used to supply rural schools with safe drinking water. In addition to making a personal contribution to this project, in 2019 24 employees volunteered 16 hours each, raising awareness on topics such as safe water, sanitation and electricity and organizing small scientific experiments for the schoolchildren.
Music and literature as ambassadors
Our symphony orchestra
The Deutsche Philharmonie Merck is a professional symphony orchestra established back in 1966. It is an integral part of cultural life in Darmstadt (Germany) and the local region and regularly tours internationally, performing in Moscow (Russia), in April 2019.
It is important to us to spark an interest in music early on. Children aged four and older enjoy the traditional cushion concerts. In our annual orchestra workshops, talented young musicians work with our professional orchestra musicians to develop sophisticated concert programs. Around 60 young aspiring musicians participated in 2019.
The Deutsche Philharmonie Merck gave its 31st charity concert in January 2019, raising a total of € 50,000. Via the “Echo hilft!” initiative, the proceeds went to help five community projects in the Darmstadt area.
people attended the concerts given by our symphony orchestra in 2019.
Literary awards for bridge builders
Like music, literature is an important mediator between cultures. That is why we grant five literary prizes around the world, some annually, others every two years. These comprise the Johann Heinrich Merck Award for Literary Critique and Essay in Germany (since 1964), the Premio Letterario Merck in Italy (since 2003), the Merck Kakehashi Literature Prize in Japan (since 2014), the Merck-Tagore Award in India (since 2012) as well as the Merck Translation Award in Russia (since 2016). We thus mainly recognize those authors who build bridges between cultures, as well as between literature and science. Worth € 20,000, the 2019 Johann Heinrich Merck Award for Literary Critique and Essay went to Austrian literary scholar and critic Daniela Strigl. In 2019, the Merck-Tagore Award worth around € 6,000 went to Bahamian professor Kris Manjapra.