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- 2019 Fraunhofer Institute for Microstructure of Materials and Systems IMWS in Halle (Saale) – Most Innovative Companies and Research Institutions in Germany.
CHIEF SUSTAINABILITY OFFICER
- Danh Le-Phuoc, Manfred Hauswirth, u. a.: Runner up for Best Paper at JIST2019 for »Autonomous RDF Stream Processing RDF IoT Edge Devices«
- Project Plan QK awarded at the “KI-Innovationswettbewerb” of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Engery (BMWi)
- Stephan Pham: DASH-IF Excellence Award for “Evaluation of shared resource allocation using SAND for ABR streaming” at the ACM Multimedia Systems Conference
- Dr. Jürgen Großmann et al: Most Influential Paper Award in the category practical impact at the 12th IEEE International Conference in Software Testing, Verification and Validation (ICST) for “Testing Embedded Real Time Systems with TTCN-3”
- Project MeineReha® awarded at the “Gründerwettbewerb – Digitale Innovationen” of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy
- Rydies wins at DemoDay of Fraunhofer Venture with Fraunhofer FOKUS and their Tool “Stimulate”
Report created by Kavita Kripalani
Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, headquartered in Germany, is the world’s leading applied research organization. With its focus on developing key technologies that are vital for the future and enabling the commercial exploitation of this work by business and industry, Fraunhofer plays a central role in the innovation process. As a pioneer and catalyst for groundbreaking developments and scientific excellence, Fraunhofer helps shape society now and in the future.
Founded in 1949, Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft currently operates 74 institutes and research institutions throughout Germany. The majority of the organization’s 28,000 employees are qualified scientists and engineers, who work with an annual research budget of 2.8 billion euros, of this sum, 2.3 billion euros is generated through contract research.
Company Sustainability Activity
Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft’s Principle of Responsibility,”Prinzip Verantwortung“, guides us in all their dealings with customers and cooperation partners, employees and suppliers as well as in assessing the impact of their actions as a scientific organization. This reflects the Fraunhofer conviction that responsibility and integrity are a fundamental basis for both economic and scientific success.
They have distributed this responsibility widely throughout the organization, anchoring it in the Executive Board, Presidential Council, managers, employees as well as in committees and the General Staff Council. Acceptance of this responsibility is also evident in the solidarity among their Institutes when order volumes are less than desired or when Institute facilities are affected by natural disasters.
They respond to today’s social challenges by launching strategic initiatives that will enable them to develop system-specific solutions based on interdisciplinary research. In these endeavors Fraunhofer plays a major role in the transfer of scientific knowledge across Germany’s scientific community.
Corporate Responsibility also means the realization and constant further development of an employee-oriented personnel policy, sparing utilization of resources, protection of the environment, regional community outreach and compliance with social and environmental standards in the supply chain.
- As part of the work being performed to develop the Fraunhofer 2022 Agenda, the Future Commission, which was set up in 2018, collaborated with many other internal units in 2019 to devise an organizational structure that will make the FraunhoferGesellschaft fit to face the future. The aim is to give the organization a clear, less complex structure that will enable it to compete in the global research environment and also live up to the expectations of its stakeholders – namely policymakers, industry and the scientific community.
- The Impact Goals is to help Fraunhofer hone its profile with policymakers, industry and society. The goals address social and cross-industry challenges and highlight the areas in which Fraunhofer can contribute significant solutions by taking an interdisciplinary approach: Affordable healthcare; Energiewende accomplished; Security and resilient society; Digitized value chain; Fully circular economy.
Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft does not disclose any targets regarding sustainability at the moment.
- The High-Tech Forum is a body tasked with advising the government on how to implement and further develop its High-Tech Strategy 2025. The High-Tech Forum met three times in 2019 to discuss issues surrounding innovation policy and published two discussion papers: one looks into possible ways of reaching the 3.5% target, i.e. increasing R&D spending to 3.5% of GDP, while the other deals with the topic of social innovation; its authors advocate that social innovation should be seen as complementary to technological innovation, and they have made proposals for funding relevant research. The resulting recommendations for action will be discussed by the round table of state secretaries. Representatives of the High-Tech Forum also attended an evening parliamentary session to answer questions directly posed by members of the Bundestag. Six key topics have been placed on the agenda for 2020: the agility of the innovation system, future forms of value creation, sustainability within the innovation system, innovation and skills, biology and digitalization, and open science and innovation. The Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft’s science policy department also provides support to the federal ministries with regard to governance of the missions with which the High-Tech Forum is entrusted in connection with the High-Tech Strategy 2025 subject of sustainable value creation.
- Sustainability is also the theme of the 01/2020 issue of the Fraunhofer magazine. Its content focuses on R&D projects that deal with the question of new concepts for the use of plastics. They range from the design of new materials and closed material cycles to new recycling processes.
Extraordinary research projects and activities
- The LamA project – charging points at the workplace – is one of the key climate protection research projects at Fraunhofer. Funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi), the purpose of this research project is to establish a charging infrastructure for electric vehicles. It forms part of the 2017–2022 Immediate Action Program for Clean Air, which addresses districts with high levels of NOx pollution. The objectives of the LamA project include promoting sustainable mobility, developing a smart energy management system for electromobility, analysing rebound effects, and facilitating transfer of research to business and society, for example by means of acceptance and effectiveness studies. The first charging points were installed in November 2019. Ultimately there will be nearly 500 of them at a total of 38 Fraunhofer Institutes.
- The internal project conducted in 2019 was a white spot analysis focusing on global sustainability as a driver of innovation. With reference to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), this project examined Fraunhofer’s internal structures and programs to determine those with the most relevance to these goals and additionally identified the countries and areas of technology most likely to benefit from sustainable innovations. Significant R&D potential was identified in areas such as the closed-loop economy and improved transparency of global supply chains. White spots were also identified in projects designed to combat climate change and in technologies being developed to enable third-world countries to meet SDGs such as “zero hunger.”
- In 2019, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft also set up its own citizen science network. The 13 participating Fraunhofer Institutes came together to discuss their experience of citizen science projects on which they had worked in the past few years, in different contexts and with different themes. The advantage of such projects is that they provide an opportunity to formulate the requirements to be met by innovative products and services from the end user’s point of view. This, in turn, makes it possible for researchers to adapt solutions to pressing social issues. On the other hand, citizen science raises the challenge of communicating with many more stakeholders than usual and coordinating input from many more project participants. The network’s next goals are to develop other resources to help with work on citizen science projects, including a platform enabling Fraunhofer researchers to share their experience.
Fraunhofer Strategic Research Fields
- The Strategic Research Fields are the key areas constituting the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft’s research portfolio. They build on the impetus provided by the Key Strategic Initiatives, taking these initiatives to the next level. Taking relevance, strategy and priorities into account, Fraunhofer is positioning itself in the following interdisciplinary research fields: Artificial Intelligence; Digital Healthcare; Quantum Technologies; ydrogen Technologies; Next Generation Computing; Bioeconomy; Resource Efficiency and Climate Technologies.
Climate-friendly heat pump
- With their low CO2 emissions, heat pumps are a favourite among future heating technologies. Most of the heat pumps in use today still run largely on refrigerants containing environmentally harmful fluorinated greenhouse gases. An EU regulation (the “F-Gas Regulation”) stipulates that these gases must be reduced starting in 2020, but most of the alternatives developed to date are toxic or flammable, and stricter legal security requirements are making heating systems with heat pumps more expensive. A high-performance brine-to-water heat pump from the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE uses propane, a natural gas, as the refrigerant. The global warming potential of this gas is extremely low. In addition, the LC150 prototype requires only a quarter of the refrigerant needed for commercially available heat pumps, making it suitable for indoor use in residential buildings – with no additional safety precautions. With just 150 grams of propane, the LC150 pump delivers a heating power of around 8 kilowatts, which is estimated to be sufficient to heat a single-family home with average heating energy consumption. The researchers achieved a significant improvement by using asymmetrical plate heat exchangers for their innovative approach: due to their design, asymmetrical heat exchangers require less refrigerant. In addition, using less oil in the compressor also significantly lowered the amount of refrigerant required. Fraunhofer ISE conducts research along with the entire heat pump.
- Value chain – from materials to component and device development to quality assurance and monitoring in the field. The institute has an accredited test lab for heat pumps and chillers.
Recycled batteries for electric vehicles
- Most electric vehicles are equipped with lithium-ion batteries, and to a great extent, European companies have to import them. In addition, increasing vehicle electrification will lead to a rapidly rising number of used batteries. It is hoped that efficient recycling will make it possible to keep the valuable components and materials in the recycling loop at the end of the battery life cycle. This is the aim of the research and industry partners collaborating on the AutoBatRec2020 (Automotive Battery Recycling 2020) project. This initiative is part of the European Institute for Innovation and Technology (EIT) Knowledge and Innovation Community “KIC RawMaterials,” which is being coordinated by the Fraunhofer Research Institution for Materials Recycling and Resource Strategies IWKS in Alzenau and Hanau. Besides further research partners and companies such as Samsung SDI Battery Systems and UMICORE, project participants also include the Fraunhofer Institutes for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA and for Silicate Research ISC.
- Its goal is to develop efficient process cycles for recycling traction batteries on a pilot-scale – from collecting used batteries to disassembling them to separating the individual types of material. Innovative, automated disassembly, crushing and sorting technologies are one of their focus areas. The diversity of materials and designs used in battery systems, and the expected increase in the quantity systems in the life cycle, pose great challenges. The new solutions for disassembly processes and recycling-compatible design are also aimed at eliminating the risks involved in disassembly as a result of handling high voltages and flammable and noxious components. The project partners assess the various methods in terms of cost-effectiveness and sustainability. Custom-combining and refining these methods creates an economically promising value creation cycle for the reuse of old electric-vehicle batteries.
Manufacturing batteries ecologically and economically
- Currently, the major automakers usually outsource their battery cell production to Asia – in part because of the lower energy costs in the production process there. To enable economical and eco-friendly manufacture of next-generation battery cells in Germany, researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Material and Beam Technology IWS in Dresden have developed a new transfer method for dry coating. It entails, first, mixing active material with binding polymers. Engineers then feed this mixture into a rolling mill to produce a flexible electrode film with high stability, which they laminate directly onto an aluminium foil. This creates a battery electrode that does without ecologically unsafe and energy-intensive wet chemical methods requiring pastes and subsequent drying processes, all of which necessitates complex industrial safety measures. In addition to conventional lithium-ion batteries, this innovative method can also be used for solid-state batteries with ion-conducting solids instead of flammable liquid electrolytes. It was not possible to treat the solid-ion conductors used in these batteries with the existing wet chemical method.
- The researchers are using the new approach to process new electrode materials such as sulfur. These are precisely the kinds of materials that will be needed to manufacture future batteries with higher energy density. Finnish battery company BroadBit Batteries partnered with Fraunhofer IWS to open a pilot plant with a dry-coating process in May 2019. Now innovative sodium-ion batteries are being manufactured in Espoo, in the Helsinki metropolitan area. To further develop dry electrode coating on an industrial scale, additional companies are collaborating with Fraunhofer IWS on DryProTex, a funding initiative of Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).
United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
United Nations SDGs Compliance
The following section aligns current company-wide sustainability initiatives with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Although not explicitly stated, Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft has attempted to be compliant with SDGs.
- A mobile food scanner can determine whether food items are authentic and whether they have gone bad. The pocket-sized demonstrator unit measures the freshness of food, whether packaged or unpackaged. The core of the mobile scanner is a near-infrared sensor. In addition to determining the degree of ripeness of fresh foodstuffs, or the content of processed foods, it can also identify the provenance of products such as olive oil and salmon. Tomatoes and meat were the first products used for training. Participants in the project are the Fraunhofer Institutes for Optronics, System Technologies and Image Exploitation IOSB and for Process Engineering and Packaging IVV, Deggendorf Institute of Technology, Weihenstephan-Triesdorf University of Applied Sciences and the Bavarian State Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Forestry’s Competence Center for Nutrition (KErn). The project is one of the Bavarian ministry’s “We Rescue Food” funding initiatives.
- Another internal project conducted in 2019 was a white spot analysis focusing on global sustainability as a driver of innovation. With reference to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), this project examined Fraunhofer’s internal structures and programs to determine those with the most relevance to these goals and additionally identified the countries and areas of technology most likely to benefit from sustainable innovations. Significant R&D potential was identified in areas such as the closed-loop economy and improved transparency of global supply chains. White spots were also identified in projects designed to combat climate change and in technologies being developed to enable third-world countries to meet SDGs such as “zero hunger.”
- Gerd Geißlinger and his team developed the concept of the 4Ds that calls for collaboration across four areas of drugs, diagnostics, data and devices. As Fraunhofer’s health research officer, they are also striving to develop models for in-house collaboration to better tap the organization’s potential across disciplinary boundaries. “they want to shape medical advances to benefit patients and contribute to optimum healthcare with cutting edge, transdisciplinary research. The goal is for Fraunhofer to become a high-profile global player in health research. They are in an excellent position to accomplish this, thanks to the transdisciplinary collaboration among the professionals behind the 4Ds – doctors, engineers, computer scientists and natural scientists,” says Geißlinger.
- Cybersecurity Training Lab – Fraunhofer’s further education initiative Cybersecurity Training Lab strengthens research-based skill development in the field of IT security. It is operated by the Fraunhofer Academy in cooperation with select top-ranking universities of applied sciences. The topics covered extend from Industrie 4.0 to critical infrastructures and from software development to IT forensics.
- Wastewater treatment plants are facing the challenge of separating the tiny particles out of wastewater safely and without blockages. That is why the SimConDrill project is aimed at creating a durable filter that robustly and efficiently separates microplastics from wastewater. It is based on an already patented cyclone filter and lined with special metal foils. The project partners use innovative laser technology to drill holes with a pore diameter of less than a hundredth of a millimeter, which allows for efficient filtering of particles as small as 10 micrometers, even with large quantities of water.
- Fraunhofer IEG will focus on the following fields: energy system infrastructure and sector coupling, heat mining and heat storage, borehole systems, geo-resources and development of the requisite technology, energy systems, and carbon sequestration.
- The SynLink project is aimed at showing that renewable energy can be used to manufacture – through absorption from the air – first syngas and, ultimately, methanol and fuels from H2O and CO2.
- The seven Fraunhofer Groups are a way for Fraunhofer Institutes that conduct contract research in related areas of technology to coordinate their R&D strategies: Information and Communication Technology; Innovation Research; – Life Sciences; Light & Surfaces; Materials and Components; Microelectronics; Production.
- The High-Performance Centers, Fraunhofer Institutes work together with universities, non-university research institutions and industrial partners. They serve as platforms in the innovation ecosystem, using a wide range of routes to transfer knowledge on the basis of structured roadmaps for their specific region. All 16 High-Performance Centers were evaluated in 2019 and in all cases, it was recommended that they should continue. An analysis of their results showed that, between them, the High-Performance Centers had generated €140 million in industrial revenue and led to more than 300 contracts being placed with Fraunhofer by small and medium-sized enterprises.
- A high-performance brine-to-water heat pump from the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE uses propane, a natural gas, as the refrigerant. The global warming potential of this gas is extremely low. In addition, the LC150 prototype requires only a quarter of the refrigerant needed for commercially available heat pumps, making it suitable for indoor use in residential buildings – with no additional safety precautions. With just 150 grams of propane, the LC150 pump delivers a heating power of around 8 kilowatts, which is estimated to be sufficient to heat a single-family home with average heating energy consumption. The researchers achieved a significant improvement by using asymmetrical plate heat exchangers for their innovative approach: due to their design, asymmetrical heat exchangers require less refrigerant. In addition, using less oil in the compressor also significantly lowered the amount of refrigerant required
- The researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT are contributing their expertise in various areas. Ultrashort-pulse (USP) lasers are particularly suited for the tiny pore diameters. A microplastics filter could be used for cleaning ballast water, for mobile applications in sewer cleaning vehicles or for private households. The SimConDrill project, funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) initiative for SMEs, was launched in 2019 and is set to run for two and a half years.
- Fraunhofer’s internal program ICON (International Cooperation and Networking) enables strategic project-based partnerships with international universities and non-university research organizations of excellence. In 2019, the ICON program was instrumental in initiating three new partnerships with leading centers of excellence in Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Austria.
Secondary SDGs: 5, 10
The company has some certificates and awards but could be acquiring more. They have no expressed targets. They implicitly align with 8 out of 17 UN SDGs with solid efforts toward sustainability.
The company is making good progress in reducing CO2 emissions, renewable energy, clean water, raw materials consumption, and innovation in alignment with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Their initiatives cover various sustainability initiatives and they appear to show good leadership in their business approach.
However, the company does not communicate its goals specifically and clearly, which makes it difficult to identify its true progress. In addition, it is imperative that they prioritize tracking the effects of their environmental footprint and are doing everything in their power to offset it as much as possible.
It is not clear if the company is achieving this or not without clear targets and metrics identified. Furthermore, the lack of certifications and listings does not support the company’s initiatives and strategies. This company has been rated a C.
Analyst Outlook: Positive
The company has many commendable sustainability-related initiatives and should continue making this progress.
To achieve greater transparency and success as a sustainability leader, the company should communicate its progress in a more organized manner by identifying its specific targets, metrics, and clear alignment with UN SDGs.