With his resignation from the general executive management of Composites United e. V. (CU), Dr. Gunnar Merz is setting an example for the future and transferring his previous area of responsibility to the younger generation. Dr. Tjark von Reden will become the sole CEO from April 1, 2024, supported by the two new Deputy Managing Directors Dr. Bastian Brenken and Dr. Thomas Heber. Both come from the ranks of the CU.

Dr. Gunnar Merz, one of our esteemed CEOs, will be leaving Composites United with effect from April 1, 2024. With a doctorate in chemistry and extensive international professional experience, including at Dow Chemicals, Dr. Merz joined CFK Valley e. V. in Stade, one of the two associations that later merged to form CU, as Managing Director in 2014.

Under his direction, CFK Valley, which was founded in 2004, was realigned with the initiation of “Strategy 2020” and the focus of the association’s work was placed on internationalization, diversification and regional, national and international value creation for its members. Merz succeeded in repositioning CFK Valley economically and expanding the network in such a way that the association’s services could be financed through membership fees. The association was then able to win important projects for the development of an internationalization concept with the partner Japan (InterSpin) or the regional announcement Composites & Lightweight Design (KNMP) on top.

Gunnar Merz was also instrumental in initiating the merger negotiations between CFK Valley e. V. and Carbon Composites e. V. and led them on behalf of CFK Valley. He played a key role in the successful completion of the merger and the founding of the new, joint network Composites United e. V. in 2019. 

As CU CEO, he was responsible for the areas of strategic development, internationalization, technology centers, politics and lobbying. Always with a focus on the added value for CU members, he placed particular emphasis on the visibility and national and international networking of the CU in his work. Together with the CU Presidium, Gunnar Merz has also established lightweight design as a key technology in the coalition agreement of the current federal government and created European visibility for the CU and its members through his commitment as spokesman for the Strategy Advisory Board of the Lightweight Design Initiative of the Federal Ministry of Economics and Climate Protection (BMWK) and in cooperation with partner associations.

Gunnar Merz is now taking the next step: he is fulfilling the strategic change of leadership stipulated in the merger agreement and handing over the baton to the younger generation at the CU. From April 1, 2024, Dr. Tjark von Reden will be the sole CEO of the CU. He will be assisted by Dr. Bastian Brenken and Dr. Thomas Heber as the new Deputy Managing Directors.

Dr. Brenken, who holds a master’s degree in aerospace engineering and a doctorate in 3D printing and fibre composites, will contribute his expertise primarily in the areas of technology & sustainability and internationalization. He has been actively involved in the association since 2018 and has been Managing Director of the CU Nord cluster in Stade since 2020 and is the CU expert for sustainability.

Dr. Thomas Heber will be responsible for Networking & Events and Communication. The mechanical engineer with a doctorate in lightweight design and plastics technology and many years of experience in science and industry has accompanied and successfully built up the first regional cluster CU Ost in Dresden as Managing Director since its foundation in 2011. He continues to be responsible for coordinating the technical working groups in the CU and, as Managing Director of Composites United Leichtbau-Forschung gGmbH, he supports joint industrial research in the field of fiber composite-intensive lightweight design.

Prof. Dr. Klaus Drechsler, Spokesman of the Executive Committee of Composites United e. V., on the change in CU management: “With his expertise, Gunnar Merz has provided many fundamental impulses over 10 years, driven the further development of the association and built up and established important national and international structures. He has successfully and sustainably represented the interests of CU members on the political stage in Berlin and Brussels. He was instrumental in initiating and successfully shaping the merger of the two CU predecessors – CFK Valley e. V. and Carbon Composites e. V.. On behalf of the Executive Committee, all members and the team, we would like to thank him for his many years of dedicated service. I am also delighted that Bastian Brenken and Thomas Heber have joined the Executive Board. Both are proven experts and have known the CU and its members very well for many years.”

We would like to express our deepest gratitude to Dr. Gunnar Merz for his great commitment, his passion and his decisive contribution to the development of our network. We wish him all the best for his new challenges and are convinced that he will also achieve extraordinary things there. The official farewell will take place at the general meeting and the anniversary celebration for the 20th anniversary of the association on November 26, 2024 in Stade.

At the same time, we welcome Dr. Bastian Brenken and Dr. Thomas Heber to their new roles and look forward to a shared future and the continuation of Composites United’s success story.

A new generation at the CU: CEO Dr. Gunnar Merz (2nd from right) hands over the baton to the two new Deputy CEOs Dr. Thomas Heber (left) and Dr. Bastian Brenken (2nd from left). Dr. Tjark von Reden (r.) becomes sole CEO.

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