Alumni-Spotlight - Carl Toller, Fraunhofer IPT

Easy enough for 12-year-olds - IPT alumnus Carl Toller

Carl Toller ist passionierter Läufer und hat sogar schon den Göteborg-Marathon gewonnen.
© Privat
Carl Toller is a passionate runner and has even won the Gothenburg Marathon.
Conducted a literature research about strategic goals for technology platforms in diversified companies for Fraunhofer IPT at RWTH Aachen.
© Ingenjörsbyrå Forma AB
Conducted a literature research about strategic goals for technology platforms in diversified companies for Fraunhofer IPT at RWTH Aachen.

Carl Toller is a design engineer at the Gothenburg engineering company Forma. It is known for its contribution to the interior of the Volvo CX40, the car of the year 2018. The travel-loving mechanical engineer is involved in the Swedish Rheumatism Society and has also been president of the student union of his alma mater, the Chalmers University of Technology. In his many different projects he still uses a self-developed framework based on a project of the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology IPT. He spends his free time with marathon competitions and training. Running, as he puts it, is the best way to develop new creative ideas.


What led you to Fraunhofer?

It was in autumn 2015, during my Erasmus year at RWTH Aachen University. I was a mechanical engineering student with a focus on product development and management. A young lecturer informed us about his job at Fraunhofer and his project. That sounded exciting to me and he arranged to join his team. That was a stroke of luck, because during my stay abroad I not only wanted to go to school but also gain practical experience.


What were the main interests, what was the project about?

It was a project for Simon Ryschka's dissertation. Together with other students and Master's students we investigated which strategic goals diversified companies with an international perspective can achieve with the help of technology platforms. Also the implementation and how market potentials can be tapped was subject of this research. The result of this cooperation between RWTH Aachen University and Fraunhofer IPT is a descriptive model that makes it easier for companies to better understand technology platforms and set strategic goals.


What did you gain from your time at Fraunhofer?

When I returned to Sweden from Fraunhofer in order to continue my studies, I noticed that during these months I had made a very clear professional development. I made a big step forward that I would not have made at home. Perhaps it was the passion for excellence at Fraunhofer that had a lasting influence on me.

I was certainly inspired by the fact that I was working in the field led by Prof. Günter Schuh. Today, his projects are known far beyond the academic world, and I continue to follow them with great interest. The most important aspect was propably the close relationship with the industry at Fraunhofer. At the same time we did not lose the scientific focus. Industrial companies are very self-focused. In the scientific environment, on the other hand, the focus is on evidence, facts and applicability. Fraunhofer manages to unite the best of both worlds.

It was also the Fraunhofer experience that convinced me: When I design a model, it has to be easy to use. My rule of thumb is: you have to be able to explain it to a 12-year-old child within five minutes, otherwise it's too complex.


Why is that?

That sounds a bit provocative and that's the way it's meant to be. But otherwise such models are not used. A manager with a busy schedule has other worries than entering data into a sheet he doesn't understand. He is also not interested in doing a one-week training only to be able to work with a model.

In this project I made many interesting experiences, learned a lot about technology platforms. I was then able to use these results for my own master thesis. I developed a framework with which companies can determine their status quo and check which strategic steps make sense. I still work with this model in my projects today.



Der schwedische Tag der Zimtschnecke ist ein wichtiger Feiertag!
© Ingenjörsbyrå Forma AB
The Kanelbullens Dog is an important holiday in Sweden! Carl Toller enjoys the taste of a cinnamon bun.

You have experience in both countries, do you think there are differences between the scientific landscape in Sweden and Germany?

I would like to take a look at the cultural differences in general. Swedish organisations are much more concerned about building up consensus in their teams. Many managers are afraid to make decisions on their own. There are lengthy discussions and more resistance from employees. This sometimes leads too far, because details are discussed that are not yet relevant.

When you have a manager in Germany, you usually follow the instructions. In many cases, this is more effective because decisions and implementations take place more quickly. However, this does not mean that this is always the better way: depending on the situation, it can also be helpful to have these extra loops. This can lead to better decisions, and you have the advantage of having the team fully behind you.

Otherwise, I see a lot of similarities between Germans and Swedes. Maybe you could say that Germans are a bit more open. It's easier to find new friends, which is perhaps also due to the more international audience of the university city of Aachen. If you have a circle of friends in Sweden, it's very intensive, but it's also harder to set up such networks.


You are networked via Fraunhofer alumni, do you have any other points of reference to Germany?

I try to come to Germany at least once a year. I've been to NRW several times now and mainly to West Germany and I've been to the Oktoberfest once. I wasn't as frequent in East Germany yet, but I'd like to make up for that. I always travel with an Open Mind and let myself be surprised where I end up.

At the moment I am thinking about a longer stay in Germany because I have really had great experiences there. However, such foreign assignments also involve a considerable amount of bureaucracy. After my time in Aachen I swore to myself: never again! But that didn't stop me from going abroad again two years later, this time to the Netherlands.


What do you think makes a stay abroad special?

You start with a new sheet of paper. You can try out new things, even on a personal level. For example, I started to eat vegan food at the RWTH, which I still do today, unless the Kanelbullens Dog (Day of the Cinnamon Roll) intervenes on 4 October.


Are there any more interesting holidays in Sweden?

I celebrate Tie-Friday and therefore come to the office with my suit and tie on Fridays, so to speak as a counterweight to Casual Friday. I try to convince my colleagues of the advantages of a more formal dress code. But at the moment I'm the only one at Forma wearing suits and I'm the only one with a pin of the Fraunhofer-Alumni e.V. on the reverse!


Thank you for the conversation, Mr. Toller!