Helmut Claas awarded Rudolf Diesel Medal

Published on 12 April 2017

Helmut Claas, one of the world’s most influential agricultural engineers, has been awarded the Rudolf Diesel Medal for his lifetime of achievement in innovation. Dubbed the ‘Oscars for Inventors’, the medal recognises both scientific achievement and entrepreneurship.

As managing partner of the CLAAS Group for many years, Helmut helped to build the company – founded in 1913 by his father and uncles – into one of the world’s leading agricultural machinery manufacturers. “It’s certainly very special to be able to receive such an honour in one’s nineties,” Helmut says. “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.”

Helmut joined the family business in 1958 after completing a degree in mechanical engineering at the Technical University of Hanover, which included studies in Vienna and Paris. His special focus was on innovation and mass production. In 1962 he was appointed director of the engineering department.

In what proved to be a glorious period in the company’s history, Helmut oversaw the introduction of the world-famous DOMINATOR combine harvester (1970), JAGUAR forage harvester (1983), QUADRANT square baler (1988), XERION advanced technology tractor (1993) and LEXION combine harvester (1995).

Helmut has been bestowed numerous honorary doctorates, professorships and citizenship awards over the years.

His services as a pioneer of Franco-German co-operation saw him awarded the Chevalier dans l’Ordre de la Legion d’honneur by the French Government in 2009.

Today, CLAAS firmly remains a family-owned business, with the daughter of Helmut and the late Erika Claas, Cathrina Claas-Mühlhäuser, now chair of the Supervisory Board. The company employs around 11,500 workers worldwide and has a turnover of €3.6 billion.

The Rudolf Diesel Medal was initiated in 1953 to honour Rudolf Diesel, the inventor of the namesake engine.

It is awarded by the German Institute for Inventions (Deutsches Institut für Erfindungswesen), whose trustees comprise board members and managing directors from more than 40 leading technology companies in Europe.

The award ceremony was held in the Hall of Fame of the Deutsches Museum in Munich.

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