From Stuttgart to the world: Fraunhofer IPA turns 60


"Future is our product" is the motto of the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA. The institute produces innovations and solutions for industrial applications and bridges the gap between science and practice. This is to be celebrated in 2019: 60 years ago – on July 1st, 1959 – the institute in Stuttgart began its work.

"Just how valuable Fraunhofer is for the German innovation system can be seen by the fact that other countries like Brazil, Great Britain or the USA are setting up organizations with similar structures to the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft", says IPA Institute Director Professor Thomas Bauernhansl. For him, the Fraunhofer model, which combines application-oriented research for industry with preliminary research with universities and other research institutions, is the key to Germany’s innovative success.

As the largest manufacturing engineering institute of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, Fraunhofer IPA doesn’t just deal with current topics, it also wants to set trends. "Especially in the automotive and mechanical engineering state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, there is a demand for us to play a pioneering role. In Industrie 4.0, i.e. the digital transformation, we were able to play a formative part. Right from the outset, we will also be involved in the biological transformation, which is becoming ever-more important", explains Bauernhansl. "We have the advantage that we have always acquired new topics and thus new disciplines very quickly and flexibly – for example in areas such as medical engineering, biotechnology or cleanroom technology. We are used to collaborating on an interdisciplinary basis and bringing together the various technologies. Only with knowledge from different disciplines will we be able to find the best solution for all concerned", he concludes.

Professor Fritz Klocke, who has supported the management of Fraunhofer IPA since July 2018, adds: "The close partnership with Stuttgart University’s Institute for Industrial Manufacturing and Factory Operation (IFF) and Institute for Energy Efficiency in Production (EEP) has contributed significantly to our own success. It goes without saying that we are much more successful working together than alone”. For Klocke, who worked at the Aachen university RWTH for a long time, Cyber Valley is also a great opportunity to bridge the gap between fundamental natural sciences and practical application sciences. In the future, this cooperation will be further intensified.

International network as an important pillar

Fraunhofer IPA employs 700 scientists. In addition to branch offices and project groups in Bayreuth, Mannheim and Reutlingen, Fraunhofer IPA also has branches of varying sizes and structures in Austria, Hungary and Japan, all of which are linked to universities.

Fraunhofer IPA’s most recent international presence is currently becoming established in Shanghai/Lingang, one of China’s leading science and technology regions. The Project Center for Smart Manufacturing, a cooperation with Shanghai Jiao Tong University, works together with industrial partners to implement research projects on digital transformation.

Strengthening Stuttgart as a business location

The institute wants to grow not only internationally, but also locally. "IPA 100 in the next two to three years is a realistic working goal for us. That means 100 million euros in sales per year – an increase of more than a third over today’s figures. In order to im- plement this, we need to adapt existing structures, develop new ones and, above all, involve and motivate our employees", says Professor Fritz Klocke.

Professor Thomas Bauernhansl adds: "One of our biggest lighthouse projects is the technology and innovation campus ‘S-TEC’ in Stuttgart. Its purpose is to network companies with the highly diversified research landscape in Stuttgart and to advance future-oriented research topics. These include topics such as additive manufacturing, cybercognitive intelligence, cyberphysical systems, digitized battery cell production and ultra-efficiency, as well as frugal products and manufacturing systems that are organized in centers and supported financially by the state government".

For Bauernhansl and Klocke, S-TEC is a huge opportunity to develop the science location of Stuttgart into a lighthouse that can be seen from afar, thus making it attractive for young scientists.

Giving a face to the people shaping the future

Fraunhofer IPA’s most valuable asset is its employees. Representing the entire institute, the anniversary website therefore features 60 people telling 60 stories from the last 60 years. After all, these are the people who are turning "Future is our product" into a living reality. An anniversary song specially composed by employees of the institute portrays the diversity of research tasks and describes everyday working life, at times in a serious and at others in an ironic way.

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Fraunhofer-Institut für Produktionstechnik und Automatisierung IPA
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70569 Stuttgart
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