Serving the Fraunhofer idea

SAR image of the Daimler-Benz plant in Wörth.
© Fraunhofer FHR
SAR image of the Daimler-Benz plant in Wörth.

In 2017, Fraunhofer FHR further strengthened its largest business unit so that it can respond even better to the requirements of its customers. Dr. Udo Uschkerat, an experienced and well-networked scientist, is appointed full-time spokesperson for the business unit Defense.

Dr. Uschkerat, you have taken on a full-time position as spokesperson for the business unit and moved away from your career as a scientist. How did this come about?

I have always worked on topics that are particularly related to defense research. I have been active in this segment for over 20 years, and have therefore been able to establish a correspondingly good network. When the Directors of the Institute decided to implement this position as a full-time job, I was proposed as a possible candidate and approached in this regard. The job sounded interesting, so I didn’t hesitate for one second.
The change to another position means that you cannot continue your work in research projects. Do you miss this?

In some particular cases break off was not easy. There were a number of projects I really put my heart into. I simply had to pass on the baton. But I know the projects are in good hands. Project acquisition and customer support were things I also enjoyed doing in the past. I have taken on some new responsibilities with the new position, but I still have a lot of room to maneuver. This suits me down to the ground!

What does the position of spokesperson actually involve?

Defense research accounts for approx. 70% of our activities and is therefore our most important business field. It is therefore important to stay in close touch with the needs of the customers – even though we don't personally supply the products. But we have to be aware of the challenges that are faced by the customers of our partners, so that we can get together to develop the right solutions. I am the designated contact person and, whenever required, I also represent the institute in other committees and organizations. This also extends, of course, to representation at symposiums, conferences and exhibitions.

How important is it to stay in touch, not only with customers, but also with the scientific community?

We carry out applied research – it is therefore important to keep an eye on the latest developments in basic research. This technology watch is imperative when creating innovative ideas for new applications and technologies. Just think of quantum radar and nanotubes – and the new possibilities that will be opened up!

Do new technologies play an important role at Fraunhofer FHR?

As a Fraunhofer institute, we concentrate on applied research and development. And then there is the basic research which is carried out in universities and other non-university institutions, for example, the institutes of the Helmholtz Association. It is our job to recognize when and how new results from basic research can be developed into market-relevant products.

High frequency sensors with millimeter waves is a good example here. Thanks to the cooperation with Fraunhofer IAF and the Ruhr University Bochum, we are the technological leader in this area. Electronic beam steering techniques for radar systems is another example. In this area, we cooperate closely with German defense companies and with GESTRA we point out  how this could be implemented. In addition to new hardware technologies, new mathematical methods offer possibilities to improve or further extend the functionality of a radar system.

Which services will Fraunhofer FHR be able to offer its partners in the future?

Fraunhofer FHR has world-leading expertise in the utilization of electromagnetic waves for sensor tasks. We use this expertise to deal with new questions that arise in military and civil tasks. We give our partners access to this expertise through counseling services, experiments as well as R&D activities. For the future, we will enhance our focus on medium-sized companies in the defense sector. There is great potential here to further serve the Fraunhofer Idea – the provision of research and development services also to small companies that cannot afford it.