Making the future available
“If, before 2019, you had asked me: ‘Do you feel safe in Germany?’, I would have said: ‘100 percent!’” observes Prof. Michael Lauster, deputy spokesperson of the Fraunhofer Segment for Defense and Security VVS. Now, however, the director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Technological Trend Analysis INT would give a very different answer to the question. He has a lot of reasons for this change of heart: from the pandemic and the catastrophic flooding in the Ahr valley and along the Erft river, which destroyed large parts of his institute in Euskirchen, to the war of aggression in the Ukraine and the infrastructure attacks on Nord Stream 1 and the Deutsche Bahn in October 2022. He notes that that there are significant gaps in emergency preparedness: from the lack of masks during Corona's outbreak to community- accurate weather forecasts prior to the 2021 floods, which failed to give appropriate disaster warnings. Prof. Lauster is all too familiar with the consequences these gaps can have. In his own home and in the institute he leads, the basements and ground floors were destroyed. According to the safety and security researcher, critical infrastructures are in particularly grave danger at present, and yet, as he points out, “we live in a country with state-of-the-art resources, such as emergency teams that can reach the scene of a call-out in just seven minutes.”
Prof. Lauster not only serves as director of Fraunhofer INT, but also as a professor for Technology Analysis and Foresight at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering in RWTH Aachen University. He first trained as a commissioned officer in the German army, and then studied aerospace engineering at the University of the Bundeswehr Munich. After completing a doctorate on irreversible thermodynamics, he qualified as a professor in statistics.
Prof. Lauster has been the spokesperson for Fraunhofer AVIATION & SPACE since February 2014. And, as the aerospace engineer is happy to highlight: “Fraunhofer technologies have been along for the ride in one out of every two ESA missions in the last 20 years!” Now, Fraunhofer is playing a vital role both in European space travel and in the protection of critical infrastructures.
The emergence of the private space industry, also known as the New Space movement, is paving the way for solutions in these fields. The resulting development of cutting-edge technologies and increase of private company investments could expand the capabilities of existing satellite systems, offering new options for communication, time and navigation services, as well as earth observation — for example, thanks to fleets of small, batchproduced satellites like the ERNST platform that was developed by the Fraunhofer Institute for High-Speed Dynamics, Ernst-Mach- Institut, EMI. “These kinds of nanosatellites could help us with climate protection and disaster control. Or they could monitor large areas such as submarine communication cables and detect disruptions,” explains Prof. Lauster.
As a safety and security researcher, Prof. Lauster not only views his field from multiple perspectives, but also over long periods of time. “We live in an age where our future is still undecided; it can still be shaped by our actions in the present, so it makes sense for us to consider the threats presented by future events and how we can avoid them.” However, the scientist does feel that his field is lacking a quantitative theory of safety and security. “If we invest in security architecture, could this allow us to formulate a benchmark that could be used to evaluate the resilience of a system?”