After three weeks of blogs on the German Fraunhofer Institutes, this week we hear from Fraunhofer UK.
Tim Holt is the Executive Director of Fraunhofer UK Research Ltd.
Fraunhofer in the UK
An invitation by Lord Drayson in 2009 to the former Fraunhofer President, Professor Bullinger, to explore closer connections between UK Universities and Fraunhofer led to the formation, in 2012, of Fraunhofer UK Research Ltd and the associated Fraunhofer Centre for Applied Photonics, both based at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow.
A Proven Model
Fraunhofer has a reputation for delivering professional R&D services in a wide range of technical areas. Fraunhofer is the largest applied R&D provider in Europe and is recognized as a major contributor to the success of the German economy, in particular their strength in manufacturing.
The model includes on-going financial support from government, which is matched to the amount of directly funded contracts from industry. This gives ‘auto-pilot' de-risking, with government only investing in areas which industry has declared important, evidenced with industry money. Therefore this model will support the growth of expanding industrial areas and will automatically see the reduction in provision for areas no longer significant for industry. The risk of backing the wrong technologies with public money is greatly reduced.
The model is more than financial. Each Institute (or ‘Centre' when outside Germany) is led by an academic who is jointly appointed with a university. This gives a strong bridge to cutting edge research, it smoothes the transition of new ideas into the mix and enables the large cohort of PhD students who are a vital output of the Fraunhofer system.
How Fraunhofer fits into the UK
The UK has recently established seven Catapult Centres, in a model with some similarities to Fraunhofer. These have been created to give a clear UK brand to a set of intermediary research organizations.
Fraunhofer can complement these, by offering expertise in specific areas. For example the first UK Fraunhofer Centre is in applied photonics, an enabling technology that has applications in many areas. Of course, Fraunhofer UK is already engaging with Catapult Centres where its expertise complements their offering.
Fraunhofer UK Research Ltd• Formally launched by Vince Cable, May 2013• Headquarters for all Fraunhofer Research Centres in the UK• Operating the proven Fraunhofer Model in the UK environment• A global brand with local engagement• Part of Europe's largest technology network
Fraunhofer Centre for Applied Photonics (CAP)An active, professional R and D centre, collaborating with industry and excelling in:• Novel laser sources• Laser-based systems for sensing / imaging and materials processing / manufacturing• Developing products and processes• Laser applications
Unlike for-profit franchises, Fraunhofer UK Research Ltd is an independent not-for-profit company and will re-invest any surplus in the UK in equipment and training to remain relevant to industry's technology needs. Fraunhofer Institutes in Germany will benefit through new UK collaborators resulting in more EU projects and greater industrial and economic strength within the EU.
What does it mean on the ground…?
Fraunhofer CAP's first employees started in December 2012 and already have many collaborative and direct contract projects with industry underway. This includes 6 projects supported by the Technology Strategy Board, 3 with EU backing and others with laser companies across the UK.
Fraunhofer UK meanwhile, is in advanced discussions with a number of UK universities who seek to support the creation of new Fraunhofer Centres in other technical areas where there is strong industry demand.