Alumni at Fraunhofer

Review: Fraunhofer Alumni Summit in Aachen

Fascinating presentations and top-level talks with bright minds from the academic, political and industrial sectors were on the agenda of the 3rd Fraunhofer Alumni Summit held on 28 September in Aachen. Happy to be reunited, the delegates also entered into animated discussions and creatively communicated research projects concerning additive manufacturing during the Science Slam.

The 3rd Fraunhofer Alumni Summit began with the welcome speech in front of Aachen's landmark building. Touring the cathedral, the place of Charlemagne's coronation, the delegates attuned themselves to the varied two-day event programme and the exchange of interesting ideas. The alumni gained insights into current activities at Fraunhofer during their subsequent visit to the three Aachen-based Fraunhofer institutes – the ILT, the IPT and the IME. Researchers presented the latest interesting research projects concerning laser technology, additive manufacturing and industrial plant cultivation. Excited to see one another again, the delegates saw out the first day together at Aachen's Tivoli stadium, where lively discussions ensued.

Under the influence of additive manufacturing

The key topic of the second day in the Eurogress centre was on "Additive Manufacturing" (AM). Prof. Schleifenbaum from Fraunhofer ILT presented Future AM, the request-based lead project on which six Fraunhofer institutes are collaborating to make additive manufacturing in Germany a competitive proposition. The aim is to reduce the long processing and production times of numerous metallic materials so that they can be used in series production. Prof. Reinhart Poprawe, Head of Fraunhofer ILT, later added "Future AM is set apart from other joint research projects mainly by its practical relevance, and this comes from the experience with metal garnered by the participating Fraunhofer institutes over many years".

Prof. Claus Emmelmann from Fraunhofer IAPT emphasised the importance of digital process chains in additive manufacturing. There were still too many manual activities and different file formats hindering the information flow, he said. Prof. Christoph Leyens from Fraunhofer IWS presented multi-material concepts involving AM, such as components printed on polymer films, graded materials or composite structures. Prof. Thomas Bergs from Fraunhofer IPT introduced the High-Performance Center for Networked Adaptive Production as an innovation platform for digitalisation and manufacturing, and gave other presentations as well.

In practice: Better, lighter, more cost-effective and more ecological with AM

During the panel discussion that followed, Dr Wilhelm Meiners from Trumpf, who has received multiple awards for his pioneering work in 3D printing, Dr Jens Ertel from BMW, Prof. Ingomar Kelbassa from Siemens and Peter Sander from Airbus talked about the prospects for additive manufacturing. Dr Ertel explained the benefits on a BMW Convertible component. Thanks to AM, this is 40 times more rigid, 40 times lighter, optimally adaptable and, because there is less material, cheaper than conventionally produced parts. An Airbus example was also impressive: The production of an aircraft partition by AM alone saves up to three tonnes of fuel every year.

The AM experts identified the degree of automation of the machines required to reduce the duration of AM processes, the as yet limited component size, the security of AM data and the future business models challenges for the years to come. Companies should be asking themselves whether they will continue to sell components at all or simply the data from which end users could print the components themselves.

Visit by two presidents

After the General Meeting of Alumni e.V., the Fraunhofer President Reimund Neugebauer presented to the members the new Cluster of Excellence as virtual Fraunhofer institutes, the lead projects and the most important research activities of the Fraunhofer society. He welcomed Armin Laschet, the Chief Minister of North Rhine Westphalia. The Chief Minister praised the concept of the alumni network, and also the momentum created by the Fraunhofer Institute through close collaborations with medium-sized companies for the economy, and not just in his federal state.

During the breaks, the guests marvelled at the exhibits on show, including a printed motorcycle from BMW and the Fraunhofer ILT, the miniature output of a Vertical Farm for plant production from Fraunhofer IME and "The Digital Twin", the model of a completely networked production environment by Fraunhofer IPT. The Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology UMSICHT had brought along electrically conductive synthetic compounds that can be processed into thermoplastic-based bipolar plates, and the Fraunhofer focus project, Future AM, presented its plan of action.

A brilliant finish: Aachen illuminated

The 3rd Alumni Summit drew to a close with an evening event in the city hall. The specular highlight was a 3D laser show, which told the history of Aachen Cathedral in moving images across its facade. The Fraunhofer HR Marketing Department had invited 4,000 students to the event to secure young talent for the research institute.

At the end of the day, all the delegates agreed that the event had been a complete success: most of all, they were pleased to have met with colleagues again, gained far-reaching insights into current research projects and established new and interesting contacts.


Science set on an entertaining centre stage

Once again this year, a high point of the Alumni Summit was the Science Slam, where four young scientists showcased their creative potential. The topics ranged from new bones and organs off the printer to Additive Manufacturing + Machine Learning through to 3D printing with laser and feeling. Simon Vervoort from Fraunhofer ILT, who impressed with a witty explanation of sensor integration with the help of lasagne, which included both starter and dessert, got the most laughs. Prize money of 1000 euros beckoned.

What do Fraunhofer alumni do for industry and society?

After Prof. Reinhart Poprawe from ILT had given his presentation on digital photonic production, he discussed with Personnel Director Prof. Alexander Kurz and Dr Thomas Kamps, CEO of Fraunhofer spin-off Conweaver the topic of "What do Fraunhofer alumni do for industry and society?" Prof. Kurz explained that of the 26,500 Fraunhofer employees at present, around 1,700 leave the organisation every year, 75 percent going into the economic sector, 23 percent into academia and 2 percent become self-employed. According to Prof. Poprawe, these alumni convey the Fraunhofer spirit into their new undertakings and are, of course, potential new customers, after all "business comes from talking!" The Fraunhofer alumni network is, he said, a unique platform across all sectors that benefits society as a whole.

Prof. Kurz emphasised that there was still some potential to be had: a more active alumni, mentoring programmes, support for spin-offs or even a matching platform, for instance. All these things should create momentum to further develop the Alumni Association, which currently has 720 members In response to the question about his goals for 2022, he hopes "that the alumni network continues to grow across all sectors, carries on the spirit of the Fraunhofer family to spread throughout society as a whole."

A Great Passion ...

© Fraunhofer

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Heinz Gerhäuser, ehem. Institutsleiter des Fraunhofer-Instituts für integrierte Schaltungen IIS

"For people who have worked for the Fraunhofer Society for a long time and who have mostly worked on their own initiative with great passion for their tasks, this phase has become an important part of their professional and private life. Networks have emerged which have not lost their meaning even after the departure of these individuals. The Fraunhofer Alumni Association makes the further development and maintenance of these personal relationships much easier. In addition, there is the pleasant feeling of being part of a community that one has come to appreciate."

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Heinz Gerhäuser, former Director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS in Erlangen.


International Alumni Events

More than 40 participants came to the first Fraunhofer alumni event outside Germany in Beijing. More Events for interantional Fraunhofer-Alumni will be offered in the future.


What alumni really want

In a survey, Fraunhofer alumni were asked what expectations they have of the Fraunhofer-Alumni e.V. These results serve as a basis to make the membership of the association even more attractive for present and future members.


Become a member

As a member of the Fraunhofer Alumni e.V., you are an active part of the alumni network – regardless of where you are currently working or researching. The core is the Fraunhofer Alumni Portal.


  • Meet former colleagues and develop your network at the annual alumni meeting, the "Alumni Summit", on November 10, 2017 in Munich.
  • Read exclusively assessments of future-relevant scientific topics by Fraunhofer experts


  • Stay connected to your home institute .
  • Get to know Fraunhofer alumni from the fields of business, science and politics.
  • Make new contacts at association events and on the Alumni Portal

Fraunhofer-Alumni e.V.

The Fraunhofer-Alumni-e.V. is a strong community of experts. Here, you can find out who can become a member of the Fraunhofer-Alumni-e.V.


  • Scientific exchange with Fraunhofer experts
  • Share your skills in the Fraunhofer Alumni Network.
More questions? Please refere to the FAQs

Become am member

As a member of the Fraunhofer Alumni e.V., you are an active part of the alumni network – regardless of where you are currently working or researching. 


  • Network with Fraunhofer Fellows worldwide.
  • Stay up-to-date with international research news from the Fraunhofer world

Inspire your career

Fraunhofer-Alumni e.V. launched the new "Career Portal", the main focus is on supporting departing Fraunhofer employees and Alumni in their further career. Application profiles are only accessible by supporting enterprises like Bosch. Further information can be found in the Fraunhofer intranet or refer to Martin Schindler.



Fraunhofer Alumni Meet-up in Beijing

More than 40 participants came to the first Fraunhofer alumni event outside Germany. At the German Center in Beijing, they attended exciting lectures by Fraunhofer experts and networking in the brewery.