University Donor Franz-Robert Klingan

“Our ambition must be to compete with the very best”

Studying Chemistry at TUM and his doctorate under the later President Wolfgang A. Herrmann are the cornerstones of Franz-Robert Klingan’s career. As a university donor, he now helps to ensure that his Alma Mater can continue to confidently face the future.

Dr. Franz-Robert Klingan is most comfortable when he is being challenged and when “the learning curve is particularly steep”. His decision to study Chemistry was in line with this inclination: “I wanted to study something challenging, something that not everybody does and, above all, something that I would enjoy.” His father, a civil engineer and later Honorary Citizen of TUM, was initially skeptical: “In his university days, chemists were the ones who stank and wore stained lab coats,” Franz-Robert Klingan explains.

In his first semesters at TUM, when the curriculum included not only Chemistry but also the fundamentals of Physics and Mathematics, and the first analytical tasks in the lab needed to be performed, he found the experience challenging: “An essential component of successful scientific study is frustration tolerance. This is what I learned back then. I had to grit my teeth,” Franz-Robert Klingan says. At the same time, he learned a lot about himself: how to deal with setbacks, how to organize his studies, and how much energy it can unleash when you really want something.

Doctorate Under Later President

Doing a doctorate at TUM under the later president Wolfgang A. Herrmann was a natural continuation of this experience: “Wolfgang always emphasized good work ethic and considered diligence a virtue, but he gave us a lot of freedom, which was important to me.” In particular, he says, Professor Herrmann made it possible to complete the doctorate without delay, which was a very real competitive advantage at the time. “I started working in the economically difficult years of crisis in the mid-1990s. Having been fast in your studies and coming from an excellent chair was an asset.”

When asked about his doctoral examination, Franz-Robert Klingan recalls a very demanding but friendly examination board. “The questions were very diverse and came from very different fields, you had to be smart about it, because despite all the expertise, you obviously can’t know everything.” There was also a tradition at the Chair of Inorganic Chemistry that the oral defenses were concluded by the self-appointed “demolition expert”: “He built some kind of firecracker heads in the basement and started to detonate the first one just before the time was up. So when you heard it bang outside, you knew it couldn’t last much longer”.

A Totally Different World

After his doctorate, Franz-Robert Klingan initially joined Hoechst AG in the pharmaceutical industry. These first years of his career were very educational: “In particular, of course, you first have to learn things that are not necessarily taught at university, such as business management and leadership.” After the company and the entire industry were increasingly affected by consolidation and restructuring measures, Franz-Robert Klingan switched to the management consultancy Bain & Company in 2000, where he is now a Senior Partner and responsible for the private equity in the company’s Healthcare and Pharmaceuticals practices in the EMEA region.

He found himself in a completely different world with a unique business model. “With today’s perspective, I have to admit that my background in Natural Sciences naturally is a unique selling point. By attending the relevant conferences and continuing to use my industry contacts, Chemistry, Biochemistry and now also parts of Medical Care are still an important part of my world, but ultimately my career is about economic and financial relationships.”

Every Morning a New Challenge

What he appreciates most about his job is that every morning brings a new challenge. “I have the privilege of seeing the latest developments and working with only the best people,” Franz-Robert Klingan explains. This experience and the desire to keep getting better are also what drives him to remain committed to his Alma Mater. “In my eyes, TUM has undergone mind-boggling developments over the past few decades. But now it’s not a matter of being comfortable and standing still, but of seeing where there is room for improvement, and where we need to reassess the direction in light of current developments.” He thinks that it must be TUM’s ambition to compete with the very best and not settle for glorified mediocrity. “I am convinced that our new president Thomas Hofmann too will continue to work on TUM’s development.”

For Franz-Robert Klingan, it is important that TUM makes the most of the wonderful talent it has. That’s why him and his wife support the TUM University Foundation as donors. “The Free State of Bavaria is a very generous and forthcoming partner here, but there are things that not even it can make possible, and for that we need the support of those who are financially able to make their contribution to the greater good.” Universities, as the country’s highest educational institutions, should enable society to meet the enormous challenges that lie ahead: “Right now, this is first and foremost the pandemic and the climate crisis, but in the medium term I’m also thinking about a new relationship between work and life, a new relationship to mobility, and the ability to generate, distribute and use energy in completely different intelligent ways.”