History of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft


50 years after its foundation: 9,300 employees working in 47 institutes and in central administration generate close to 1.4 billion marks in revenue for the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. 

The Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft continues to exert vigorous efforts towards fulfilling its role as a driving force of innovation in the German economy. Market research and technological studies are used to identify the areas of research that will be of significance in the future, enabling the organization to provide relevant capacity as required. Ongoing expansion of international relations serves both to promote contact with industry and to provide Fraunhofer researchers with links to the international scientific community. A deliberate policy of customer orientation will contribute steadily towards increasing the proportion of industrial research in the overall budget of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. Internal cooperation will continue to be improved through further institute alliances for specific technologies and through virtual centers.



A »mole« designed to inspect pipelines for hairline cracks is acclaimed by specialists: new variants are planned to inspect pipelines around the world for structural damage.

The Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology UMSICHT, based at Oberhausen, is integrated into the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft early in the year. This represents a strengthening of the organization's competence in the fields of process engineering and environmental engineering. 

After two years of preparation, the Senate gives the go-ahead for the creation of a new department of the Fraunhofer Institute for Information and Data Processing IITB: the Institute for Transport and Infrastructure Systems IVI is to be set up in Dresden. It will incorporate the former IITB branch laboratory for process control. Transport technology is thus given greater emphasis in the research spectrum of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. 

To reinforce its competence in biotechnology, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft decides to set up a new department for molecular biotechnology at the Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental Chemistry and Ecotoxicology IUCT. The aim is that it should develop into an independent institute within three years.


A »mole« designed to inspect pipelines for hairline cracks is acclaimed by specialists: new variants are planned to inspect pipelines around the world for structural damage.

On behalf of the German government, an independent jury is asked to select the five best pilot projects from 271 draft proposals on the subject of "innovative products based on new technologies and the associated production processes". Fraunhofer Institutes play a major part in three of the selected projects: 

Innovative technologies and systems for virtual product creation, Fraunhofer Institute for Production Systems and Design Technology IPK

Modular diode laser-beam tools, Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT

Adaptive composite fibre structures for building panels, several Fraunhofer institutes, coordinated by the Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC.


The third Fraunhofer Forum deals with the topic of "Virtual reality and cyberspace - artificial world or a new media dimension?" The forum takes place in conjunction with the general assembly at the Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics Research IGD.  

The latest US center is founded in February at College Park, MD: the Fraunhofer Center for Software Engineering is a subsidiary of the Fraunhofer Establishment for Experimental Software Engineering IESE. 

In May, in view of the positive economic developments in the participating European countries, the European Council makes its final decision: monetary union in Europe is to begin on January 1 1999. The German mark will cease to be legal tender on July 1 2002. 

The end of the Kohl era: at the national elections in October, the social democrats and Green party obtain the parliamentary majority. Gerhard Schröder is elected chancellor. Edelgard Bulmahn is designated as new research minister. 

The competence center for ultra-thin functional layers in the Dresden/Chemnitz region . comprising 10 institutes of higher education, 15 research establishments and 28 industrial firms, under the leadership of the Fraunhofer Institute for Material and Beam Technology IWS - is among the six winners of the competition on "competence centers in the field of nanotechnology" sponsored by the federal ministry of research. 

The Vision alliance, in which 16 Fraunhofer Institutes have joined together with the aim of coordinating their expertise in the field of automatic image processing systems, opens a joint liaison office in Erlangen, where customers can call and have their inquiries forwarded to the appropriate institute. 

Four institutes join together in an alliance for surface technology, in order to consolidate their approach to the market. The members are the Fraunhofer Institutes for:

Thin Films and Surface Engineering IST, Brunswick

Material and Beam Technology IWS, Dresden

Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, Dresden

Laser Technology ILT, Aachen.

Degussa launches the new dental product "Definite" on the market. Developed in collaboration with the Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC, the filling material is intended to replace amalgam. 

The Fraunhofer Institute for Silicon Technology ISIT develops a lithium battery based on fixed ion conductors: not only does it outperform existing lithium batteries, its special construction makes it completely environmentally safe. 

Commercial breakthrough is achieved for audio encoding techniques developed by the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits, IIS, Applied Electronics Department. MPEG-2 Layer 3, the most successful, is to be employed by three satellites transmitting digital radio broadcasts to the southern hemisphere from 1999 onward. The same technique has become the de facto worldwide standard for music transmission on the Internet in the course of 1998. 

By pooling their expertise, the Fraunhofer Institutes for Applied Solid State Physics IAF and for Thin Films and Surface Engineering IST, together with an industrial partner, succeed in gaining a place in the Frontier Carbon Technology research programme sponsored by the Japanese ministry of industry MITI. The group successfully competed against a number of national and international rivals.


Six Fraunhofer Institutes join together in an alliance for materials and components. A similar alliance for production technology is set up in the same year. 

A new building is planned for central administration. The Executive Board approves plans by architect Henn; construction is expected to be completed by the year 2002. 
The Fraunhofer Applications Center for Logistics-Oriented Business Administration ALB is set up in Paderborn. A liaison office for France is opened in Paris and a project group for Austria is set up in Villach. 

To close the gap between research institutes and industry, innovation centers are set up as an experimental model. In this way, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft expands its field of business to include the production of prototypes for commercial use and short-run manufacturing. The innovation centers are organized on the same principles as private industry, in line with the recommendations formulated by the federal government in its . Guidelines for the strategic orientation of the German research environment. published the previous year. 

The proportion of military research in the total budget of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft has meanwhile dropped to five per cent as a result of the steady expansion of contract research business.


miniature laboratory

The 1996 Philip Morris research prize is awarded to Dr. Rainer Hintsche of the Berlin Branch Laboratory of the Fraunhofer Institute for Silicon Technology ISIT for the development of a mobile miniature laboratory.

The Fraunhofer Establishment for Experimental Software Engineering IESE is founded in Kaiserslautern, and the Working Group for Cordless Telecommunication and Multimedia Technology ADTM is set up in Erlangen. 

It is particularly at the international level that the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft expands its activities and presence this year. The project group for Switzerland takes up its work in Tägerwilen. In the USA, Fraunhofer USA, Inc. adds the Fraunhofer Resource Center Delaware and the Fraunhofer Technology Center in Hialeah to its list of centers. Other branch laboratories are founded in Asia, with Representative Offices in Malaysia, Singapore and China. The aim is to create and maintain contacts in economic regions of present and future importance. 

The Fraunhofer Applications Center for Powder Metallurgy in Clausthal is closed down. 

The Fraunhofer Forum held in November at the Deutsche Museum deals with the topic "Technology for senior citizens - more humanity for less money?" 

New automatic systems come to the fore in security technology: the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Systems and Design Technology IPK develops image processing systems capable of verifying signatures and fingerprints. One year earlier, the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS had developed an opto-acoustic system which identifies individuals by their voice and lip movements.  


In November, the Federal Supreme Court rules that contract research is a taxable commercial activity. Not until two years later does an amendment to the tax law remove the risk that cooperation with the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft could lose a great deal of attraction for industry. 

The federal research ministry launches the PROFIL programme, which allows the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft to employ up to 5 per cent of its institutional funding for activities abroad. 

In March, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft launches a new regular event, the Fraunhofer Forum. The first forum is held in the Munich Residenz palace and is devoted to the topic. Communication without traffic? New information technologies provide mobility. The aim is to hold lectures and discussions by top-ranking experts on technological developments which will have a permanent effect on our economic and social life. The Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft sees its role as a partner in this dialogue, and aims to provide support in the implementation of relevant technical options. 

A corporate design is introduced to unify and improve the image of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft in the public sphere and at the same time to promote a sense of internal solidarity. 

The major federal German research establishments join together to form a federation called the Hermann-von-Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft deutscher Forschungszentren (HGF). 

The federal ministry of research commissions a study entitled »2000plus«. Led by the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering IAO, 300 experts from the fields of economics, science and politics work for three years to draw up recommendations for action to strengthen the service sector in Germany.


The 1994 general assembly


A new instrument for know-how transfer is employed. Special branch laboratories attached to specific institutes, known as Fraunhofer application centers, are set up with the aim of intensifying contacts between research and industry. This year sees the establishment of the Fraunhofer Applications Center for:



Waste Disposal and Transport Logistics AEV in Wildau (new name from 1998, Logistics Systems Planning and Information Systems ALI in Cottbus)

Transport Logistics and Communication Systems AVK in Nuremberg

Systems Technology AST in Ilmenau

Processing Machinery and Packaging Technology IVV in Dresden

Powder Metallurgy in Clausthal

In August, Fraunhofer USA Inc. is founded at Rhode Island to manage all other activities of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft in the USA. Two Fraunhofer Resource Centers start to operate under its auspices: the Fraunhofer Resource Center in Hartford, CT, for Production Technology, which one year later moves to Boston, MA; the Fraunhofer Resource Center in Ann Arbor, MI, for Laser Technology. 

After long discussions and changes to the original concept, the Fraunhofer Institute for Silicon Technology ISIT is set up at Itzehoe. It works in close cooperation with Daimler-Benz subsidiary TEMIC. 

45 years after its foundation, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft provides work for some 8,000 employees. Its 47 institutes and the central administration produce revenue of around 1.15 billion marks.


Hans-Jürgen Warnecke, President of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft

Hans-Jürgen Warnecke, President of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft.

As a response to the globalization of industry and science, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft steps up its international activities. In the USA, the Fraunhofer Center for Research in Computer Graphics FRCG is set up at Providence, Rhode Island. 

The total volume of funds flowing into the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft exceeds one billion marks for the first time. 

The "Leitbild 2000" is published, in which the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft defines itself as a market and customer-oriented umbrella organization for applied research institutes, operating on a national and international basis. Criteria applying to institutes belonging to the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft are tightened, making tough demands even for those research establishments already integrated into the organization, which calls for a strict focus on activities relevant to industry. 

Hans-Jürgen Warnecke, until now head of the very successful Stuttgart-based Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA, takes over the post of president from Max Syrbe. 

An engineering firm in Saxony brings the first ecological, CFC-free refrigerator onto the market.


the first energy-autonomous solar house

From vision to reality: the first energy-autonomous solar house, designed by the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE, goes into operation.

From this year onward, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft is consistently the most successful applicant for patents among all state-financed research establishments in Germany. 

Professor Dieter Seitzer, head of the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS in Erlangen, is awarded the Karl-Beckurts prize, the highest award for applied research in Germany, for his work on efficient data reduction of digital signals.


The micro membrane pump

The micro membrane pump is developed at the Fraunhofer IFT

In July, the Science Council presents its recommendations for the restructuring of non-academic research in the new German Länder. Special responsibilities are assigned to the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. 


The year of integration: numerous research establishments in the new Länder are integrated in the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, initially on a short-term basis or as branch offices of existing institutes. They include the Fraunhofer establishments for:


Software and Systems Engineering ISST, Berlin

Applied Polymer Research IAP, Teltow

Microelectronic Circuits and Systems IMS, Dresden

Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, Dresden

Material and Beam Technology IWS, Dresden

Ceramic Technologies and Sintered Materials IKTS, Dresden

Machine Tools and Forming Technology IWU, Chemnitz

Factory Operation and Automation IFF, Magdeburg

Applied Optics and Precision Engineering IOF, Jena

Reliability and Microintegration IZM, Berlin

The Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering is set up at St. Ingbert in former East Germany. The Working Group for High-Pressure Plasma Physics and Pulse Discharge Physics AGD in Erkrath is closed down.


1990 general assembly

1990 general assembly: federal research minister Riesenhuber (left), Fraunhofer president Syrbe (right)

The Fraunhofer Institute for Thin Films and Surface Engineering IST is set up in Brunswick. 

In Munich, the Fraunhofer Management Gesellschaft mbH FhM is founded. It looks after application-oriented institutes that do not, or do not yet, form part of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft.