Future topics: Good starting position from the Corona crisis
The Corona pandemic is leaving its mark on industry and thus also on the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. In order to mitigate the effects of Lockdown and Co., the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft pursued a strategy of competence and capacity preservation coordinated with the BMBF, within the framework of which programs were set up to promote future topics.
The corona pandemic poses major challenges not only for society but also for industry. The forecasts for 2021 show an encouraging picture across all Fraunhofer institutes. Nevertheless, quite a few institutes anticipate significant declines in economic output. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) responded with a comprehensive economic stimulus package, which included a funding line entitled »Support for application-oriented research for non-university research institutions. The grants applied for by Fraunhofer were invested with a view to the future: Through the Innopush program, Fraunhofer provided targeted funding for future-oriented topics in order to support a powerful start to the industry’s emergence from the crisis. 30 projects received one-year funding with a total volume of around € 73 million, the starting signal was given on February 1, 2021 – including for three projects in which Fraunhofer FHR is participating.
Terahertz Sprint: Terahertz Technologies for Communication and Sensor Technology
A special example of success was the project »Terahertz Sprint – Terahertz Technologies for Communication and Sensor Technology«, which was led by Fraunhofer FHR and also involved the Fraunhofer Institutes ENAS, HHI, IAF, IMS, IAF, IPMS, ITWM and IZM. Like all Innopush projects, the project was actually designed to run for one year. However, the concept was so successful that the BMBF decided to provide a larger grant instead after only three months: the joint project T-KOS, short for »Terahertz Technologies for Communication and Sensor Technology«, with a funding volume of almost ten million euros. T-KOS will run until the end of March 2022, with support from the office of the Forschungsfabrik Mikroelektronik Deutschland (FMD); in addition to the Fraunhofer institutes mentioned above, the Leibnitz institutes FBH and IHP are also participating in the project. In other words, the project’s goal of acquiring follow-up projects was achieved at record speed.
But back to the Innopush project Terahertz Sprint, here the consortium pursued three major topics: terahertz communication, optical terahertz imaging, and the construction of an industrial-grade, multistatic terahertz imaging system. Fraunhofer FHR contributed its expertise primarily in the area of the imaging system: With the development of a line scan camera that can be used to monitor production processes at 300 gigahertz non-destructively and in real time – including corresponding signal processing based on artificial intelligence. Despite the short project duration, partial results were successfully achieved and are being incorporated into the T-KOS joint project.
RuLe: Resilience of urban living spaces
The RuLe project aimed to increase the resilience of urban living spaces to harmful influences such as climate change, natural disasters and terrorist attacks through technologies, concepts and structures. Originally, the project was to be funded through the internal »Lead Projects« program, but this was halted in the wake of the pandemic. Fortunately, the consortium was finally able to acquire funding through the Innopush program. Here, too, Fraunhofer FHR was in charge, and the Fraunhofer Institutes IMS, LBF, IML, FKIE, INT and IAO also contributed their expertise. The main focus was on the catastrophes of tunnel fires and heavy rainfall. Questions about how supply paths can be maintained after a tunnel fire were the focus of the project. (see chapter on security)
HALQ: Semiconductor-based quantum computing
In the third Innopush project, which ran at Fraunhofer FHR, everything revolved around semiconductor-based quantum computing under the project name HALQ. Fraunhofer IPMS was in charge of the project. Although there are already various approaches to quantum computing, there are currently only a few realizations in Germany that go beyond the laboratory setup. This gap was to be closed by the project: The goal was to develop an overarching platform that could be used to evaluate and integrate qubit concepts. One of the questions was how the models for the electronic circuits change when they are operated not at room temperature or moderate temperatures, but at four degrees Kelvin - just above absolute zero.