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The expat top-10 aims the spotlight on the internationals that help Eindhoven progress. E52 sat down with each winning expat to talk about their experiences and perspective on the city they once came to, and never got away from. Today: Professor Jochen Jess.

expattop10logoName: Jochen Jess
Age: 81
Profession: Prof.Dr.Ing. Electrical Engineering
Living in Eindhoven since: 1971

Easily the oldest expat on the list. Now 81, Jochen Jess was born in 1935 in Dortmund. He found his Eindhovens home at the TU/e in 1971, where he founded the research group Design Automation. After his retirement in 1998, he remained active as advisor for Philips research. In 2005 he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the European Design Automation Association.

‘I was in search of an academic career, I found one in Eindhoven’
“I was 35 years old and felt like I was facing a crossroads: Should I go into the industry, or should I pursue academics as a career? I ended up in the latter and never looked back. I don’t regret it. The university is a place of constant innovation. I wanted to work in such a system.”

“In Germany, all positions were filled, and new nominations would go tot he crown princes of science. I’d never get the chance. Through a colleague in Aachen, I eventually ended up in Eindhoven. There was a vacant seat at the TU/e. I came over, had a good talk, and within an hour everything was settled. I found my new home.”

“After that, I got two more invitations to come back to Germany. The first one arrived in 1974, I could start working at the University of Bremen. I was tempted, but decided to stay in Eindhoven. The Dutch approach by then was far more liberal. The second invitation came in 1985, from the University of Hannover. I was in doubt for quite a while this time. In the end I decided to stay because we had already built so much here. I came to Eindhoven to give the institute a firmer body. I’m glad I stayed. The next fifteen years turned out be the best of my career.”

‘A lot has changed over time’
“Don’t get me wrong, the university still is a very well run place, but I think I had more freedom to explore in my days as a Professor. My ideas would probably clash with the sitting board, which has a lot of capable people in it, but I think there are too many of them. A Professor with more responsibility and freedom can really focus on innovating. Some things have changed for the better. In the eighties I was held responsible fort he budget of my research. This has changed. It’s a good thing because a scolar shouldn’t have to deal with this.”

“The city has changed too. Strijp is a beautiful place, but it should loosen up a little, open the door to spontaneity. When Strijp was just being opened up, some friends and me were looking to open an exposition for artist/collector Jan van den Berg. But there were too much of politics we had to go through. It took too much time to get going, eventually van den Berg went elsewhere.”

‘Eindhoven could be more bold’
“The arts should mostly benefit from this. The city could use someone like Wim Pijbes (former President of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam). Or someone like Rudi Fuchs, born in Eindhoven. In his time with the Van Abbe Museum he did a great job.”

‘The Dutch and people from Eindhoven are salesmen with a lack of homemade products’
“Over the years, that stood out to me. The Dutch always think in a commercial fashion: What can I sell? Which is remarkable, because there really aren’t that much homegrown products. If you compare it to Germany at least. There are German cars, German steel and so forth.”

“The commercial way of thinking has an effect on Dutch theatres. An increasing amount of them are being shut down because its hard to make money out of them. In Germany there are big theatres, subsidized by the government. It’s a shame that doesn’t happen here as much because Dutch actors are amazing. Pierre Bokma, Ivo van Hove, Johan Simons, to me, they are the best.”

“But more than anything, the Dutch and the Eindhovenaren are people with an open mind, which are easy to talk to. When I arrived here as a German in 1971, not even three decades after the war. I would have fully understand if anybody would have any reserve against me because of my countries action, but believe me, I was welcomed with an open mind and an open heart.”

Tomorrow, we will feature an interview with expat Mark Johnson.