Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Dr.-Ing. E. h. Max Syrbe was born in Leipzig in 1929 and studied physics in Frankfurt. After earning his doctorate in applied physics and control engineering in 1953, he worked for the German company BBC in Mannheim for 14 years, originally as a development and project engineer before his appointment as director of electronics. In 1968, Syrbe assumed responsibility for the Institute for Oscillation (ISF), which was renamed the Karlsruhe Fraunhofer Institute IITB in 1970.
In 1966, he was appointed to the senate of the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft, where he became president in 1983. Syrbe fulfilled this role until 1993. It was Syrbe’s initiative that resulted in the concept of developing and expanding Fraunhofer. He also pushed through the idea of contractual research based on successful outcomes, not only with business but also with public institutions, and this laid a foundation for the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft as an organization that supports applied research in the Federal Republic of Germany. In 1975, the department of computer science at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology appointed Syrbe as an honorary professor. After 1983, Syrbe was a member of the Steinbeis Board of Trustees at the Steinbeis Foundation, and between 1991 and his death in 2011 he acted as Chairman of the Board of Trustees.
The main focus of the work carried out by Syrbe lay in automation and human factors in technology, especially the human-machine interface, but also research policy and research management. Syrbe was a sponsor of the Fraunhofer Sculpture, the highest honor bestowed by Fraunhofer. He was an honorary doctor of the faculty of engineering science at the University of Duisburg-Essen and honorary senator of the University of Freiburg. Syrbe also received the Grand Cross of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany and the Order of Merit of the Free State of Bavaria.
In 2009, the jury of the Steinbeis Foundation bestowed a special prize under the Steinbeis Foundation Transfer Award – the Löhn Award. This was to honor Max Syrbe’s outstanding personal contributions to knowledge and technology transfer as a long-standing member and chairman of the Steinbeis Board of Trustees.