Shaping the future together!

As one of the world’s largest organizations for application-oriented research, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft contributes sustainable solutions that help ensure society remains viable in the future. This doesn’t just mean technological innovations, because the established concepts of sustainability demand that environmental, economic and social aspects should be considered equally and in relation to each other. This manner of thinking is reflected in our system approaches. We develop solutions that go beyond the requirements of the present and enrich the lives of future generations.

In recent years, the issue of sustainability has become an increasingly important part of corporate policy. As early as 2009, 20 Fraunhofer Institutes and facilities came together to form the Sustainability Network, a bottom-up initiative from which a structured process has since emerged and been adopted at the executive level.

»For us, sustainable management means taking responsibility and actively shaping the future,« says Professor Neugebauer. With this in mind, in 2014 we presented our first ever sustainability report, which outlines our understanding of sustainability, our objectives and the measures undertaken. This is our start towards transparent communication about our sustainability activities and serves as an instrument for long-term sustainability management.

Sustainability also matters to us as an employer, and we are constantly working on refining our attractiveness in this regard. Advancement, motivation, equal opportunities and protection of our employees are our top priorities.

Current issues


GreenTec Award 2015

Wood-derived foam materials

Since most foam materials are made of petrochemical plastics, they aren’t very climate-friendly. But now an alternative is in sight – a novel foam material produced entirely from wood, which is not harmful to the environment and is also recyclable. 

Sustainability – guiding ideas from six research areas

Plastics made from renewable resources, aircraft that is more fuel efficient, energy‑efficient metal-forming machines – the notion of sustainability runs through six research areas at Fraunhofer. This is made clear by a glance at our sustainability report.

Climate-friendly gas mixtures for cleaning processes – Project ecoFluor

Solvay, Texas Instruments, Muegge and Fraunhofer EMFT aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the semiconductor industry. For this purpose they will be testing alternative fluorine gas mixtures to be used in the cleaning processes. This three-year project, called ecoFluor, is partly funded by the German Federal Ministry of Research and Education (BMBF) and will start on 1st January 2016.

Resources and energy – plastics from wood waste

Using renewable materials saves resources. A good example of this is manufacturing chemicals from wood waste. “First the wood is divided into its chemical constituent parts: carbohydrates – specifically, sugar – and lignin. When bacteria are added to the sugar, they convert it into the basic chemicals for plastics. Lignin is used as a bonding agent for wood-based products or for chemical synthesis. Anything left over is used to generate energy. This is how a renewable resource like wood can be completely recycled,” explained Prof. Dr. Thomas Hirth, director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB and spokesperson for the Fraunhofer Sustainability Network.

Health and environment – vaccines from tobacco plants

Renewable raw materials can also provide us with vaccines. At the moment, these vaccines are customarily produced in chicken eggs, but should a global epidemic break out, this method would be pushed to its limits. Tobacco plants could deliver more vaccine in less time. When the genetic information for the vaccine protein is introduced into the plant using a launch virus vector, the plant begins to produce large amounts of the desired biomass within a few days. “In the Molecular Farming project, Fraunhofer has perfected the production of the necessary biomass in tobacco plants,” says Hirth. Researchers at a pilot facility in the U.S. produce some 2.5 million vaccine units per month

Mobility and transportation – aircraft that are even more fuel efficient

Twelve Fraunhofer Institutes are participating in the European joint technology initiative Clean Sky, where experts are working on reducing the amount of fuel consumed by aircraft. The goal is to cut a jet’s carbon dioxide emissions by at least 20 percent. Using small air nozzles, for instance, should make this possible. They would be mounted on the wing and decrease air vortices that drain energy during climbs. The researchers also analyze the life cycle of an aircraft from manufacturer to removal from service in order to develop methods that help recycle aircraft components.

Protection and safety – crisis-proof infrastructure

Epidemics, natural catastrophes and accidents are all threats to human life. Fraunhofer develops technologies that make technical systems and infrastructure crisis-proof. One example is the KATWARN warning system, which authorities can use to warn people in a targeted way, for example, to tell people to keep windows closed after a chemical plant fire. Cell phone owners who register for the service receive notices by text message; if desired, smartphones can read out these messages, making the system suitable for the blind as well. KATWARN is already available for free to about ten million people in Germany.

Communication and knowledge – sustainable, safe IT

Speaking of communication: various wiretapping scandals have made it clear that data gets intercepted and abused. Hacker attacks, spying on computers or crippling entire industries and infrastructures are problems faced worldwide. Fraunhofer is a partner for companies that develop security technology for IT security. Experts in this area are working on a corresponding seven-point program for Germany’s national research agenda Cyber Security 2020. It is intended to provide standards for information technology that is secure over the long term. Among other things, the program calls for the creation of an application lab for cyber security. Technical solutions to combat cyber crime and industrial espionage will be tested there with help from industrial partners.

Production and service concepts – energy-efficient car production

In the innovation alliance Green Carbody Technologies (InnoCaT®), scientists have partnered with the auto industry to optimize the process chain so that machines, robots and conveyor belts use less energy and fewer raw materials on the factory floor. For instance, metal-forming machines that shape steel sheets could save up to 50 percent of the energy output per workpiece. Robots, hundreds of which work in car body manufacturing, are another example. Simply streamlining their movements – making the processes smoother, with a fewer number of stops – means they consume up to 35 percent less energy.