April 2024

Fraunhofer: 75 Years of Innovation

The Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, one of the world’s leading applied research organizations, is celebrating its 75th anniversary on March 26.

Press Release

“Just like its namesake, Fraunhofer stands for bringing pioneering research and entrepreneurship together. The efficient and sustainable transfer of scientific knowledge into real-world applications is the common thread running through our 75-year history. Our success is based on the commitment of over 30,000 employees, who work hard every day to develop innovative solutions for current and future markets, thereby giving our partners a decisive advantage in the international competition. We would like to thank them all,” explained Prof. Hanselka, President of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, on the occasion of the anniversary. Government, business and society worldwide are currently facing major challenges and changes. “Our market-driven research is actively contributing to a sustainable, secure and prosperous future. I am proud to be part of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft and to be involved in shaping the future.”

Bettina Stark-Watzinger, Federal Minister of Education and Research, said: “The Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft has been shaping the German scientific system for 75 years now. It conducts research for real-world applications, keeping an eye on new technologies and markets. Fraunhofer stands for successful transfers and a vibrant start-up culture. It dares to make progress. All of this is becoming increasingly important in the face of growing international competition. As a country of innovation, we must not only conduct excellent research but also utilize the results in the domestic economy. The ace up our sleeve is our collaboration and ecosystems with partners from science and industry. The success of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft is driven by its employees, who master the balancing act between research and entrepreneurial thinking on a daily basis and are committed to finding solutions.”

Dr. Markus Söder, Bavarian Minister-President and honorary member of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, added: “Technology is the future! Fraunhofer has been combining cutting-edge research with real-world applications for 75 years and is an international leader in this field. Happy birthday and congratulations on this success! The Free State of Bavaria has been a driving force and close partner right from the start. Fraunhofer and Bavaria form a great alliance, one that we will continue in the future. As part of its High-Tech Agenda, Bavaria is currently investing over 5.5 billion euros in science and research throughout the federal state. In addition to room for 13,000 more students at universities and 1,000 professorships for the brightest minds, we are actively promoting the transfer of knowledge from research to real-world applications. Live long and prosper!”

Bavaria’s Minister of Economic Affairs Hubert Aiwanger said: “The Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft is an indispensable research partner for companies in Bavaria and Germany, paving the way for countless innovations, especially in the German Mittelstand. We are proud that the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft is deeply rooted in the Bavarian scientific landscape and is successfully advancing future topics ranging from artificial intelligence and chip design to materials and health research. I am convinced that Fraunhofer can not only proudly look back on a great past but will also be needed more than ever in the future as a driver of innovation for the economy.

Hildegard Müller, Chair of the Senate of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, said: “Fraunhofer is a German success story that proves how innovative, creative and successful our country can be when science, government and business pull together. The idea of aligning research closely with the needs of companies and real-world applications is a unique selling point for Germany as a business location that will secure us competitive advantages in the future.”

The success story of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft

On March 26, 1949, State Secretary Hugo Geiger invited 210 scientists, entrepreneurs and members of society to the Bavarian Ministry of Economic Affairs. He aimed to help revive the economies of Bavaria and Germany by setting up the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. The new research organization was named after Joseph von Fraunhofer (1787–1826), a Munich scholar who was equally successful as a researcher, inventor and entrepreneur.

In line with the needs of the post-war period, research in the early years focused primarily on the fields of mining, metallurgy and mechanical engineering. By electing Hermann von Siemens president in the mid-1950s and founding the first of its institutes, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft gradually evolved to become a mainstay of research in Germany. In the mid-1960s, Fraunhofer was officially designated the German science community’s umbrella organization for applied research.

In the mid-1970s, the Fraunhofer model and its performance-oriented base funding sparked the dynamic success that continues today. Germany’s reunification presented unexpected opportunities to expand. Moving swiftly and resolutely, Fraunhofer was quicker than other research organizations to seize the day, setting up more than 20 new institutes and research units in the states that had newly joined the Federal Republic.

Following the 1984 establishment of the Fraunhofer Group for Microelectronics, additional Fraunhofer institutes began ramping up their efforts to join forces in 1997, forming thematically focused groups and developing shared marketing concepts and research strategies. In 2015, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft founded its first-ever regional high-performance centers, where Fraunhofer institutes work closely with industry and other research partners on a local basis, covering projects on related topics. The goal was to pool strengths and tap into local potential. In 2020, Fraunhofer launched its Fraunhofer vs. Corona initiative to support the economy and society as a whole in fighting the pandemic.

The Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft as a success model and driver of innovation

Today, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft looks back on a 75-year history full of groundbreaking inventions and solutions to complex technological challenges. Since it was first founded, the organization has continued to grow and evolve, reaching many milestones along the way that reflect its innovative strength across all the different fronts of cutting-edge research. Rising from modest beginnings to international recognition as a research organization, Fraunhofer has always been defined by inventive spirit and entrepreneurial actions — just like our namesake, Joseph von Fraunhofer. Its numerous inventions and developments, ranging from the airbag and mp3 technology to white LEDs and EUV lithography, have made it the German economy’s innovation engine.

The Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft focuses unwaveringly on the needs of business and industry, providing valuable impetus for the evolution of key technologies that help to meet social challenges. The Fraunhofer model, which is based on industrial revenue, public-sector revenue and base funding, and centered on the needs of industry, is unique in the German innovation system. This combination of research, industry, and society also plays a crucial role in shaping the future, which makes it highly important to the entire innovation system. With 76 institutes and research units, more than 30,800 employees, an annual research budget of approximately 3.0 billion euros and many international collaborations, Fraunhofer exerts major impact in the research landscape.


Events in the anniversary year

April 22–26: Hannover Messe (Hannover)

May 16–17: Bonner Wissenschaftsnacht (Bonn Science Night) (Bonn)

June 12–13: Fraunhofer annual assembly / Fraunhofer Prize award ceremony (Munich)

June 22: Lange Nacht der Wissenschaft (Long Night of the Sciences) (Berlin)

Science talk with passers-by on the banks of the Spree in front of the Fraunhofer Forum Berlin

June 27–30: Festival der Zukunft (Festival of the Future) (Munich)

May 14 – September 27: MS Wissenschaft floating science center (throughout Germany)

November 1: Berlin Science Week (Berlin)