Helmut Claas awarded with Diesel Medal
10 April 2017
Helmut Claas, for many years the managing partner of the CLAAS Group, has been awarded the Rudolf-Diesel-Medaille by the German Institute for Inventions (Deutsches Institut für Erfindungswesen) in the category "most successful achievement in the field of innovation".
"It's certainly very special to be able to receive such an honour in one's nineties. But this is less about me than about our strong team at CLAAS, and how, together, we've been able to combine a love of invention with financial success," said Helmut Claas at the award ceremony in the Hall of Fame of the Deutsches Museum in Munich.
Helmut Claas built the company, founded in 1913 by his father and uncles, into one of the world’s leading agricultural machinery enterprises. Today the company is run by the third generation of the family, his daughter Cathrina Claas-Mühlhäuser. Helmut Claas was born in 1926 in Harsewinkel, Germany, the eldest of three children. Between 1948 and 1954 he completed a degree in mechanical engineering at the Technical University of Hanover. This included a semester in Vienna and a year of agricultural studies in Paris. His special focus was always on developing pioneering products and mass-producing them economically. A whole series of innovations were initiated or co-created by Helmut Claas. For example, in the early 1970s the DOMINATOR series was developed, based on a modular or platform construction concept. The DOMINATOR became one of the most successful combine harvester models in the world. Its successor model, the LEXION, was also developed in Helmut Claas’s era. This is still considered the most advanced and capable combine harvester worldwide. The development of the JAGUAR self-propelled forage harvester was also a success story, one that enabled CLAAS to dominate global markets.
Many internationally prestigious universities in Hungary, the United Kingdom, Bulgaria and Germany have awarded honorary doctorates to Helmut Claas. For example, in 2000 he received the honorary title “Doctor of Agricultural Studies” in “recognition of his outstanding achievements in the field of agricultural engineering and his particular services in the development of high-performance, modern agricultural machines” from the University of Stuttgart-Hohenheim. It was also the University of Stuttgart-Hohenheim that, in 2004, appointed him to its honorary senate for his lifetime achievement in the field of pioneering agricultural technology. In June 2009, the then Goryachkin University of Moscow, now the Timiryazev Agricultural Academy, appointed him an honorary professor. Also in 2009, the Republic of France appointed Helmut Claas “Chevalier dans l’Ordre de la Legion d’honneur”, honouring his services as a pioneer of Franco-German cooperation.
Personal awards, such as honorary citizenship of his home town of Harsewinkel, Germany, the Medal of Merit of the German state of Baden-Württemberg, as well as the Order of Merit of the French Agriculture Minister, round off his life’s work.
The Diesel Medal is considered the "Oscars for Inventors". It is designated to be Germany’s oldest innovation award. Eugen Diesel, the son of Rudolf Diesel, initiated the award ceremony in 1953. It places a special emphasis on honouring not just scientific achievement but also the entrepreneurship based on the inventions. The selecting board of trustees consists of more than 40 board members and managing directors who bear significant entrepreneurial responsibilities within technology companies.