Technological sovereignty

Making industry more resilient

Web special Fraunhofer magazine 3.2021

Nothing works today without microchips. They are built into cars, smartphones and industrial robots. In recent months, delivery bottlenecks as a result of Corona have meant that production had to be throttled or even stopped in many places, especially in the automotive industry: In January 2021, around 15 percent less production was here than in the previous year − with almost unchanged high demand . An analysis by the management consultancy AlixPartners comes to the conclusion that due to a lack of microchips, up to four million fewer cars can be built worldwide in 2021.

The global supply chain network is tightly knit and trimmed to the bone to ensure maximum efficiency. The example of the tiny semiconductor chips shows just how easily it can fall off course. On top of this, there are risks posed by digitalization: Companiesand products are vulnerable − to attacks by hackers, manipulated chips, data leaks or production data theft, to name a few. The threat of digital attacks increases as the Internet of Things expands, and millions of control devices, sensors and cameras, both at home and in industry, become interconnected via the internet. Even the German Federal Office for Information Security admits that IT security in Germany is facing a tense situation.

Trusted Electronics − Velektronik research project

Eleven Fraunhofer Institutes and two Leibniz Institutes are working together with electronics network edacentrum on the Trusted Electronics – Velektronik research project. The project, which is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research,is focused on the security of electronic components; for example, the use of intelligent sensors to prevent production data from being read as easily as it currently can be.

Up to now, customers have often had to “trust blindly” when buying electronics, laments Jörg Stephan from the Research Fab Microelectronics. 

“The trick is to use tamper-proof information technology to clearly demonstrate that the system is trustworthy.”

Prof. Claudia Eckert, Fraunhofer AISEC

Security of software systems

Prof. Claudia Eckert leads the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied and Integrated Security AISEC in Garching and is Chair of IT Security at the Technical University of Munich (TUM). “First, it is important to assess the security of software systems and understand where the possible security weaknesses and vulnerabilities are. Then, we can work to resolve these and make the software more robust,” she adds.

The information scientist is also working on completely new approaches to securely transferring, storing and processing data. This includes confidential development and production data, patient data and much more.

Split manufacturing

When a business relies on electronic components manufactured abroad, there is always a risk that somewhere along the long production line, one of the companies involved will abuse their trust. For example, it is possible to manipulate the structure of computer chips to incorporate a “Trojan horse.” There is also a risk that the design of valuable chips will be copied and counterfeited. To avoid this, many businesses opt to manufacture chips across dozens of production steps; the chip is partially built by multiple different companies, with the result that nobody knows the complete design.

“The challenge in our area of research is that, as technology, architectures and algorithms become more tightly intertwined, new methods of attack are always being discovered – however, we are also developing new ideas for counter-attacks.”

Prof. Georg Sigl, Fraunhofer AISEC

At the Fraunhofer Research Institution for Additive Production Technologies IAPT, Markus Heilemann and his team are working on 3D printing containers.

“The system is tailored directly to the container. In essence, the container itself is the 3D printer.”

Heilemann, Fraunhofer IAPT

Faster production with 3D printing

In the last few years, a 3D printing process has been developed at the Fraunhofer Institute for Machine Tools and Forming Technology IWU that resolves a significant disadvantage of the technology: It is considerably faster than conventional processes, which means it can enable flexible production in times of crisis.

More independence with raw materials

Resilient value chains – "Resyst"

The Fraunhofer Innovation Program “Resilient Value Creation Systems (RESYST)” shares the goal of providing for emergencies so production can continue. A secure supply of raw materials is high on their agenda. Germany has relatively few raw materials, which means that the future will be about ensuring that recycling is as complete and high-quality as possible.


Interview with Dr. Bernd Althusmann, Minister of Economic Affairs for Lower Saxony

“We have proven that we are capable of going digital.”

Dr. Bernd Althusmann is Minister of Economic Affairs for Lower Saxony – and an enthusiastic advocate for digitalization. However, in this interview, he also discusses its pitfalls: “Cyber espionage between political parties is an important issue, and we take it very seriously.”

Cybersecurity Training Lab

In cooperation with selected universities of applied sciences, the further education initiative "Cybersecurity Training Lab" strengthens the skill development in the field of IT security. Joint research groups open up highly topical subject areas and convey the latest findings in innovative learning scenarios. IT teams and managers from industry and public administration benefit from this compact qualification in high-quality laboratories with up-to-date IT infrastructure. They simulate real threat scenarios, learn their significance and consequences, and study suitable solution concepts practically in their use and efficiency.