Since 1996 Secretary General of the Volkswagen Foundation.
After studies in German, philosophy, education, and political science, he held an appointment as a DAAD lecturer at the University of Oxford as well as leading positions at the Wissenschaftsrat (German Council of Science and Humanities) and at the headquarters of the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft (Max Planck Society).
Besides his professional activities in science policy as well as in the promotion and funding of research, he was and still is a member of numerous national, foreign, and international committees. At present he is the Chairman of the Board of the Foundation Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, a member of the Scientific Advisory Commission of the State of Lower Saxony and of the Board of Regents of several Max Planck Institutes. In 2012 he was appointed a member of the Academia Europaea and the Research, Innovation, and Enterprise Council of the Prime Minister of Singapore.