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Fraunhofer Society

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Fraunhofer Society
Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der angewandten Forschung e. V.
Formation26 March 1949 (75 years ago) (26 March 1949)
TypeApplied research
Key people
Holger Hanselka (President)
€3.0 billion (2022)
30,800 (2022)

The Fraunhofer Society (German: Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der angewandten Forschung e. V., lit.'Fraunhofer Society for the Advancement of Applied Research'[note 1]) is a German research organization with 76 institutes spread throughout Germany, each focusing on different fields of applied science (as opposed to the Max Planck Society, which works primarily on basic science). With some 30,800 employees, mainly scientists and engineers, and with an annual research budget of about €3.0 billion,[1] it is the biggest organization for applied research and development services in Europe. It is named after Joseph von Fraunhofer who, as a scientist, an engineer, and an entrepreneur, is said to have superbly exemplified the goals of the society.

Some basic funding for the Fraunhofer Society is provided by the state (the German public, through the federal government together with the states or Länder, "owns" the Fraunhofer Society), but more than 70% of the funding is earned through contract work, either for government-sponsored projects or from industry.[1]

Since the 1990s the organization has also internationalized, establishing various centers in the United States, Asia and other European countries.[2] In October 2010, Fraunhofer announced that it would open its first research center in South America.[3] Fraunhofer UK Research Ltd was established as a legally independent affiliate along with its Fraunhofer Centre for Applied Photonics, in Glasgow, Scotland, in March 2012.[4]

Fraunhofer model


The so-called "Fraunhofer model" has been in existence since 1973 and has led to the society's continuing growth. Under the model, the Fraunhofer Society earns about 70% of its income through contracts with industry or specific government projects. The other 30% of the budget is sourced in the proportion 9:1 from federal and state (Land) government grants and is used to support preparatory research.

Thus the size of the society's budget depends largely on its success in maximizing revenue from commissions. This funding model applies not just to the central society itself but also to the individual institutes. This serves both to drive the realization of the Fraunhofer Society's strategic direction of becoming a leader in applied research and to encourage a flexible, autonomous, and entrepreneurial approach to the society's research priorities.

The institutes are not legally independent units.[5] The Fraunhofer model grants a very high degree of independence to the institutes in terms of project results, scientific impact and above all for their own funding.[5] On the one hand, this results in a high degree of independence in terms of technical focus, distribution of resources, project acquisition, and project management. On the other hand, this also generates a certain economic pressure and a compulsion to customer and market orientation. In this sense, the institutes and their employees act in an entrepreneurial manner and ideally combine research, innovation, and entrepreneurship.

Numerous innovations are the result of research and development work at the Fraunhofer institutes. The institutes work on practically all application-relevant technology fields, i.e. microelectronics, information and communication technology, life sciences, materials research, energy technology or medical technology.[6][7] One of the best known Fraunhofer developments is the MP3 audio data compression process.[8] In 2018, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft reported 734 new inventions. This corresponds to about three inventions per working day. Of these, 612 developments were registered for patents. The number of active property rights and property right applications increased to 6881.[9] Recent studies have shown that the presence of a Fraunhofer center can boost the patent output of local firms and inventors in at least 13%.[10]



The Fraunhofer Society currently operates 76 institutes and research units. These are Fraunhofer Institutes for:[11]

Fraunhofer USA


In addition to its German institutes, the Fraunhofer Society operates five US-based Centers through its American subsidiary, Fraunhofer USA:[citation needed]

  • Coatings and Diamond Technologies
  • Experimental Software Engineering
  • Laser Applications
  • Manufacturing Innovation
  • Digital Media Technologies

Fraunhofer Singapore


In 2017 Fraunhofer Society launched its first direct subsidiary in Asia:[citation needed]

  • Fraunhofer Singapore – Visual and Medical Computing, Cognitive Human-Machine Interaction, Cyber- and Information Security, Visual Immersive Mathematics

Fraunhofer UK Research Ltd


At the invitation of the UK Government, Fraunhofer UK Research Ltd was established in partnership with the University of Strathclyde. The UK's first Fraunhofer Centre, Fraunhofer Centre for Applied Photonics, was established and quickly recognised as a world-leading[12] centre in lasers and optical systems. The UK Government commented on the significance of Fraunhofer CAP in quantum technology innovation.[13] Ongoing core funding is received from Scottish Government and Scottish Enterprise.[14]

Notable projects

  • The MP3 compression algorithm was invented and patented by Fraunhofer IIS.[8] Its license revenues generated about €100 million in revenue for the society in 2005.[15]
  • The Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute (HHI) was a significant contributor to the H.264/MPEG-4 AVC video compression standard, a technology recognized with two Emmy awards in 2008 and 2009.[16] This includes the Fraunhofer FDK AAC library.[17]
  • As of May 2010, a metamorphic triple-junction solar cell developed by Fraunhofer's Institute for Solar Energy Systems holds the world record for solar energy conversion efficiency with 41.1%, nearly twice that of a standard silicon-based cell.[18]
  • Fraunhofer is developing a program for use at IKEA stores, which would allow people to take a picture of their home into a store to view a fully assembled, digital adaptation of their room.[citation needed]
  • E-puzzler, a pattern-recognition machine, which can digitally put back together even the most finely shredded papers. The E-puzzler uses a computerized conveyor belt that runs shards of shredded and torn paper through a digital scanner, automatically reconstructing original documents.[19]
  • OpenIMS, an Open Source implementation of IMS Call Session Control Functions (CSCFs) and a lightweight Home Subscriber Server (HSS), which together form the core elements of all IMS/NGN architectures as specified today within 3GPP, 3GPP2, ETSI TISPAN and the PacketCable initiative.
  • Roborder, an autonomous border surveillance system that uses unmanned mobile robots including aerial, water surface, underwater and ground vehicles which incorporate multi-modal sensors as part of an interoperable network.[20]


A German stamp: 50 years of the Fraunhofer Society

The Fraunhofer Society was founded in Munich on March 26, 1949, by representatives of industry and academia, the government of Bavaria, and the nascent Federal Republic.

In 1952, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs declared the Fraunhofer Society to be the third part of the non-university German research landscape (alongside the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the Max Planck Institutes). Whether the Fraunhofer Society should support applied research through its own facilities was, however, the subject of a long-running dispute.

From 1954, the Society's first institutes developed. By 1956, it was developing research facilities in cooperation with the Ministry of Defense. In 1959, the Fraunhofer Society comprised nine institutes with 135 coworkers and a budget of 3.6 million Deutsche Mark.

In 1965, the Fraunhofer Society was identified as a sponsor organization for applied research.

In 1968, the Fraunhofer Society became the target of public criticism for its role in military research. The criticism continued in the following decades and became a topic of public debate, including the need to improve resilience, defence capabilities and the protection of civilians and against cyber-attacks. In 2022, Fraunhofer also benefited from the € 100 billion in special funding for the German armed forces.[21][22]

By 1969, Fraunhofer had more than 1,200 employees in 19 institutes. The budget stood at 33 million Deutsche Mark. At this time, a "commission for the promotion of the development of the Fraunhofer Society" planned the further development of the Fraunhofer Society (FhG). The commission developed a financing model that would make the Society dependent on its commercial success. This would later come to be known as the "Fraunhofer Model".

The Model was agreed to by the Federal Cabinet and the Bund-Länder-Kommission in 1973. In the same year, the executive committee and central administration moved into joint accommodation at Leonrodstraße 54 in Munich.

The Fraunhofer program for the promotion of consulting research for SMEs was established, and has gained ever more significance in subsequent years.

In 1977, the political ownership of the society was shared by the Ministries of Defense and Research.

By 1984, the Fraunhofer Society had 3,500 employees in 33 institutes and a research budget of 360 million Deutsche Mark.

By 1988, defence research represented only about 10% of the entire expenditure of the Fraunhofer Society.

By 1989, the Fraunhofer Society had nearly 6,400 employees in 37 institutes, with a total budget of 700 million Deutsche Mark.

In 1991, the Fraunhofer Society faced the challenge of integrating numerous research establishments in former East Germany as branch offices of already-existing institutes in the Fraunhofer Society.

In 1993, the Fraunhofer Society's total budget exceeded 1 billion Deutsche Mark.

In 1994, the Society founded a US-based subsidiary, Fraunhofer USA, Inc., to extend the outreach of Fraunhofer's R&D network to American clients.

Its mission statement of 2000 committed the Fraunhofer Society to being a market and customer-oriented, nationally and internationally active sponsor organization for institutes of applied research.

In 1999, Fraunhofer initiated Fraunhofer Venture, a technology transfer office, to advance the transfer of its scientific research findings and meet the growing entrepreneurial spirit in the Fraunhofer institutes.

Between 2000 and 2001, the institutes and IT research centres of the GMD (Gesellschaft für Mathematik und Datenverarbeitung – Society for Mathematics and Information technology) were integrated into the Fraunhofer Society at the initiative of the Federal Ministry for Education and Research.

The year 2000 marked a noteworthy success at Fraunhofer-Institut for Integrated Circuits (IIS): MP3, a lossy audio format which they developed. For many years afterwards,[vague] MP3 was the most widely adopted method for compressing and decompressing digital audio.[citation needed]

In 2002, ownership of the Heinrich-Hertz-Institut for Communications Technology Berlin GmbH (HHI), which belonged to the Gottfried William Leibniz Society e. V. (GWL), was transferred to the Fraunhofer Society. With this integration, the Fraunhofer Society budget exceeded €1 billion for the first time.

In 2003, the Fraunhofer Society headquarters moved to its own building in Munich.

The Fraunhofer Society developed and formulated a firm specific mission statement summarizing fundamental targets and codifying the desired "values and guidelines" of the society's "culture". Amongst these, the society committed itself to improving the opportunities for female employees and coworkers to identify themselves with the enterprise and to develop their own creative potential.

In 2004, the former "Fraunhofer Working Group for Electronic Media Technology" at the Fraunhofer-Institut for Integrated Circuits (IIS) gained the status of an independent institute. It becomes Fraunhofer-Institut for Digital Media Technology IDMT.

New alliances and topic groups helped to strengthen the market operational readiness level of the institutes for Fraunhofer in certain jurisdictions.

In 2005, two new institutes, the Leipzig Fraunhofer-Institut for Cell Therapy and Immunology (IZI), and the Fraunhofer Center for Nano-electronic technologies CNT in Dresden, were founded.

In 2006, the Fraunhofer Institute for Intelligent Analysis and Information Systems (IAIS) was founded as a merger between the Institute for Autonomous Intelligent Systems (AIS), and the Institute for Media Communication (IMK).

In 2009, the former FGAN Institutes were converted into Fraunhofer Institutes, amongst them the Fraunhofer Institute for Communication, Information Processing and Ergonomics FKIE and the Fraunhofer Institute for Radar and High Frequency Technology FHR.[23]

In 2012, the cooperation of Fraunhofer with selected research-oriented universities of applied sciences based on the "Application Center" model started. The first cooperation was started with the Technische Hochschule OWL in Lemgo and led to the foundation of the Fraunhofer IOSB-INA in late 2011.




See also



  1. ^ /ˈfrnˌhfər/; German: [ˈfraʊnˌhoːfɐ]


  1. ^ a b "Facts and Figures". Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft.
  2. ^ Staff (March 2006). "Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft: International Locations". Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft organizational web site. Archived from the original on 17 November 2011. Retrieved 6 June 2006.
  3. ^ Staff (October 2010). "Fraunhofer in Chile". Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft organizational web site. Archived from the original on 28 October 2010. Retrieved 22 October 2010.
  4. ^ "Photonics leaders gather for launch of Fraunhofer UK Research".
  5. ^ a b "Satzung von Fraunhofer (German)" (PDF).
  6. ^ "Fraunhofer Groups". Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. Retrieved 28 February 2020.
  7. ^ Reuters Editorial. "The World's Most Innovative Research Institutions 2019". U.S. Retrieved 28 February 2020. {{cite web}}: |author= has generic name (help)
  8. ^ a b "The mp3 History". Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. Archived from the original on 1 January 2014. Retrieved 31 December 2013.
  9. ^ "Patents / licenses". Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. Retrieved 28 February 2020.
  10. ^ Llanos-Paredes, Pedro (2023). "The effect of applied research institutes on invention: Evidence from the Fraunhofer centres in Europe". Research Evaluation. 32 (3): 566–576. doi:10.1093/reseval/rvad028.
  11. ^ Fraunhofer homepage
  12. ^ https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/642542/Science_and_innovation_paper.pdf [bare URL PDF]
  13. ^ https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmsctech/2030/2030.pdf [bare URL PDF]
  14. ^ Rollo, Grant (14 December 2023). "Fraunhofer UK Innovation investment: Funding announced for leading laser scientists". Technology Scotland.
  15. ^ "UK in Germany". Britischebotschaft.de. 1 August 2008. Archived from the original on 8 March 2013. Retrieved 13 July 2012.
  16. ^ "Heinrich Hertz Institute – Another EMMY for H.264". Hhi.fraunhofer.de. Retrieved 13 July 2012.
  17. ^ "Ten facts about the Fraunhofer FDK AAC Codec Library for Android™". Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. 2012. Retrieved 31 December 2013.
  18. ^ "High efficiency concentrator solar cells and moduls – Research-News-Special-Edition-05-2010-Topic 2". Fraunhofer.de. 19 May 2010. Retrieved 13 July 2012.
  19. ^ Popplewell, Brett (20 January 2008). "Reassembling a puzzle with 600 million pieces". Toronto Star. Toronto, Canada. Retrieved 12 November 2016.
  20. ^ "Roborder". Retrieved 30 July 2021.
  21. ^ "Security that reflects the times we live in", Web special Fraunhofer magazine 2.2022, accessed: 6 September 2023
  22. ^ Jens Kany (2012): Die Militarisierung des Zivilen - Das Forschungsprogramm für die zivile Sicherheit. Tübingen: Informationsstelle Militarisierung (IMI) e.V., accessed: 6 September 2023.
  23. ^ "Fraunhofer-FKIE stärkt Bonn als nationales Zentrum für Cybersicherheit". Retrieved 18 November 2017.
  24. ^ "Chronik der Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft". Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft.
  25. ^ "Präsident, Unternehmensstrategie, Forschung und Kommunikation: Prof. Dr.-Ing. Reimund Neugebauer". Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft.