Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft - Germany
Heribert Schmidt, winner of the Fraunhofer Prize 2011, invented a new circuitry for the inverter.
Representative Best Practices
- Breadth and depth of the Fraunhofer expertise and relationships: Each of the 80 Fraunhofer centres operates with a high level of independence, establishing its own research strategy and priorities. At the same time, the centres are highly connected to each other and to businesses and universities with related expertise. This model allows a high degree of specialization as well as access to a broad array of talent.33
- Mixed funding model includes patient funding: The Fraunhofer has a total annual budget of approximately € 1.8 billion and is funded by both the public and the private sector: 30% is contributed by the German federal and Länder governments to fund basic research and about 70% comes from contracts with industry and the public sector. The approximately € 1.5 billion generated through contract research ensures that the Fraunhofer operates like a business, while the € 300 million basic funding provides an ongoing source of income for longer-term innovative development projects.34
- Source of innovative expertise for small, medium-sized and large companies: The institutes directly employ over 20,000 individuals, most of whom are scientists and engineers. Expertise-for-hire is particularly important for small and medium-sized companies with limited in-house R&D capabilities.
- Alignment with national industrial policy in Germany: A key part of Germany’s high-tech strategy is to promote cluster initiatives. Fraunhofer has implemented innovation clusters, leveraging skills and resources from both research and business in a given region. For example, over the past 15 years, the Saar region has developed into one of the largest sites in the automotive supplier sector. The Fraunhofer Automotive Quality Saar AQS, located in the area, comprises R&D, industry and professional associations. There is a shared facility where non-destructive testing technologies are made available, developed and enhanced.
The MP3 is perhaps the best
known public innovation developed by one of the Fraunhofer institutes – the Fraunhofer Institute for
Digital Media Technology.35
In 2012, the global market for
home and portable audio equipment is expected to reach US$ 28 billion revenue, driven largely by the
popularity of MP3 players.36
TPedge module passes a mechanical load test.
- The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE in Freiburg and Soitec solar GmbH developed a way to convert almost twice the incident sunlight into electricity as compared to conventional silicon-based systems. Additionally, Fraunhofer ISE and Soitec advanced the commercialization so that the concentrator photovoltaic module is in serial production and today is a global market leader. The Soitec Company’s solar power plants – which have a total capacity in excess of 10 megawatts – are already operating in 14 countries.37
- The Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB in Stuttgart has developed a chemical-free, eco-friendly process that enables the recovered salts from sewage sludge, wastewater and liquid manure to be converted directly into organic food for crop plants (August 2012).
- Researchers at the Fraunhofer Center for Organics, Materials and Electronic Devices Dresden have created data glasses fitted with displays that can be controlled by movements of the human eye. The displays include an “augmented reality”, layering the real world with additional visual information. Key applications include mechanics conducting complex repairs.38
- The Bystronic glass Group and the Fraunhofer ISE jointly developed a new process for photovoltaic module production – in other words, a more innovative, cost-effective way of making solar panels. The TPedge technology reduces the costs of module production by 30-40% and as a result can reduce the overall costs of a photovoltaic module – depending on the cost proportion of the solar cells – by an estimated 14%.39 The time and cost savings are a consequence of a simplified modular structure and a completely innovative production technology.40
33 Talent-Driven Innovation – Global Symposium on Best Practices, 28 November 2012.
35 The MP3: A History of Innovation and Betrayal, by Jacob Ganz and Joel Rose. 23 March 2011 on npr.org. http://www.npr.org/blogs/therecord/2011/03/23/134622940/the-mp3-a-history-of-innovation-and-betrayal.
36 IBIS World Industry Report C2525-GL Global Consumer Electronics Manufacturing, 2012.
37 Fraunhofer ISE Press Release “Fraunhofer researchers earn environmental award: concentrated sunlight”. October 2012. http://www.fraunhofer.de/en/press/research-news/2012/october/fraunhofer-researchers-earn-environmental-award-concentrated-sunlight.html.
39 Fraunhofer ISE Press Release: “New process for PV module production. TPedge module successfully completes mechanical load test”. January 2012.