The Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft (Fraunhofer Society or Fraunhofer is Europe’s largest application-oriented research organisation) is the leading organisation for applied research in Europe. The organisation undertakes application-oriented research for the direct benefit of companies and to the advantage of society at large. In 60 Fraunhofer Institutes at 40 different locations in Germany, 18,000 employees yield an annual research volume in the value of 1.65 billion euros. More than 70 per cent of the research contracts come from the industry and publicly funded research projects. International branch offices ensure the contact to the most important current and future scientific and economic areas.
Key technologies relevant to the future strengthen the process of innovation. With its clear focus on applied research and the institutes’ focusing on future-
oriented key technologies, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft plays a central role in the innovation process in Germany and Europe. The effect of applied research surpasses the direct benefits for the individual customer: with their research and development work, the Fraunhofer Institutes help reinforce the capacity for the competitiveness of the region, Germany and the whole of Europe. The Institutes promote innovation, strengthen technological capacity, and improve the acceptance of modern technologies, provide training and continued education for the urgently needed scientific-technological up-and-coming scientists and engineers and thus play a significant role in their business location and are considered an attractive employer.
For top-level research in the Rhine-Main region, a total of three Fraunhofer Institutes are located here and thus contribute significantly to securing the science city of Darmstadt and its reputation. The Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics Research IGD is the worldwide leading institution for applied research in visual computing. Visual computing is the image- and model-based computer science. These include graphical data processing, computer vision and virtual as well as augmented reality. The Fraunhofer IGD develops prototypes and complete solutions in accordance with specific customer requirements. The researchers of the Fraunhofer IGD utilize, record and process images and graphics for all kinds of computer-based applications. The research and development projects at the Fraunhofer IGD have a direct relationship to current problems in the economy. The application scope of the concepts, mock-ups and recommended practical solutions is very diverse but it is also specialised.
It ranges from virtual product development to medicine, transportation and to multi-media learning and training.
Together with its partner universities, the Fraunhofer IGD researches various key technologies and works together with companies of the most diverse branches of industry. The Fraunhofer IGD with its headquarters in Darmstadt has additional locations in Rostock, Graz and Singapore. The Institute employs approximately 180 (FTE) permanent staff members. The budget is about 16 million euros.
The Fraunhofer Institute for Secure Information Technology, SIT, supports companies and organisations in securing data and IT-based equipment, (trans-border) networks and infrastructures. Whether cloud computing, secure software development or mobile security, the Institute develops security software solutions for all relevant fields of technology, which are immediately deployable and completely tailored to the needs of the client. The Institute is known for its work around electronic identification cards as well as for its testing and IT security analysis. Experts also appreciate the development of protection against piracy and the development of automated fraud detection through the analysis of corporate data. Widespread are the digital watermarks of the Fraunhofer SIT, which are already used in diverse download portals, audio books and archives for copyright protection and are also able to secure videos, photos, PDFs and e-books. The Fraunhofer SIT is also involved at the European Center for Security and Privacy by Design (EC-SPRIDE), which is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.
Darmstadt is not only a proven science city, but also the birthplace of structural durability, the scientific basis for the testing and the evaluation of all security-
relevant structures and components, such as automotive wheels, aircraft wings or vehicle bodies of railcar rolling stock. In this way, the findings of the Fraunhofer Institute for Structural Durability and System Reliability, LBF, flow from here into the admission requirements for developments in the German, European and American vehicle and aircraft
industry as well as to their suppliers. The Fraunhofer LBF is one of the most traditional Fraunhofer Institutes. It has more than 70 years of experience in structural durability. Today its core competencies are also system reliability and adaptronics. At location Kranichstein, a team of 350 employees, together with the associated TU Department of System Reliability and Machine Acoustics, SzM, realises customised solutions for all security components – from materials to systems, from the idea to the product. In addition to a versatile experimental testing and laboratory area on more than 17,000 square metres, also a virtual testing environment is utilised and thus reduces the development timeframes. The clients come from various sectors such as automotive and commercial vehicles, rail transport technology, shipbuilding, aerospace, machinery and plant engineering as well as energy, environment and health. Two spin-offs from the Fraunhofer LBF, the ISYS Adaptive Solutions GmbH and the Stress & Strength GmbH, transfer successful research activities into innovative products and offer these on the market.
At the Fraunhofer Adaptronics Transfer Center, which is part of the Fraunhofer LBF, in particular small and medium-sized companies (SMEs) and also industrial companies can benefit from the expertise of the Fraunhofer LBF and the infrastructure of the centre through topic-specific research and development partnerships. The project house is equipped with state-of-the-art vibration-technical measurement and manufacturing technology for adaptronic structural solutions as well as test facilities and IT technology. The bundling of adaptive know-how in the region is also supported by the development of the Rhine-Main Adaptronics network.
In 2008, as part of the Hessian research funding programme “LOEWE –Initiative for the Development of Scientific and Economic Excellence”, the Fraunhofer LBF and the Fraunhofer SIT together with the TU Darmstadt and the Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences successfully established themselves with two applications for one LOEWE-Center each. The AdRIA (LOEWE-Center Adaptronics – Research, Innovation, Application) is in the context of the Hessian state strategy for the development of scientific-economic excellence initially funded with 17.7 million euros. In the medium term, an internationally leading research centre for adaptronics is to come into being at science location Darmstadt under the auspices of the Fraunhofer LBF and the main areas of the research in adaptronics are to be defended at the TU Darmstadt and the Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences. At the LOEWE-Center CASED (Center for Advanced Security Research Darmstadt), computer scientists and mathematicians from the Fraunhofer SIT research with lawyers and economists and other disciplines under one roof for IT security.
Closely linked to the Technical University of Darmstadt. All three Fraunhofer Institutes maintain professorships at the TU Darmstadt. The interaction between university research and teaching with the applied research at Fraunhofer develops huge potential along the entire value chain and is a major economic factor. The direct contact to the next generation of scientists and other employers to the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft bring profits for both sides.
An important facet of the technology transfer can be found also in the spin-offs of a university. They are a perfect proof that this always needs to be understood in a bidirectional manner: in the start-up phase, young companies need the special closeness to the university, which can be reflected for instance, in mutual contracts. On the other hand, the economy can be very helpful for the researchers to identify important future topics and provide numerous starting points. These trends recognised at an early stage can be used for the research strategy of the TU Darmstadt.
The author is director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Structural Durability and System Reliability LBF, a member of the Presidium of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft and Fraunhofer coordinator and spokesman of different Fraunhofer networks. He heads the Department of System Reliability and Machine Acoustics at the Technical University of Darmstadt SzM and since January 2011 has been Vice President for Knowledge and Technology Transfer.