Get the research out of the rectory "ivory tower" and connect it, concretely, to the needs of businesses. This is one of the most ambitious challenges for those who set themselves the goal of innovating. A bet on which there are those who have invested for some time, distinguishing themselves on the international scene for the model created. It is the case of Fraunhofer Italy, an independent foreign company of Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, the largest applied research organization in Europe, founded in Bolzano in December 2009 has become a point of reference for all companies wishing to develop applied research projects.
Fraunhofer Italia's model is clear: through multidisciplinary teams it transforms scientific knowledge into innovative solutions tailored to companies, generating direct economic benefits. The search is, therefore, oriented to the user. In fact, two thirds of the organization's budget is spent on research projects under contract with industry and for financing by third parties, while the remaining third comes from state funds. The core funding is based on the success of contract research, which for Fraunhofer Italia must primarily benefit local companies.
Synergy with NOI Techpark
A goal that since the institute has come to US Techpark, South Tyrol's innovation district, has become even more concrete. «We moved in 2017 and this significantly increased our visibility and the opportunities to cooperate with South Tyrolean research organizations and organizations. This pole is a real campus where institutional and industrial research interact on a daily basis ”, he comments Dominik Matt, director of the Italian institute.
But in which sectors does Fraunhofer Italia operate? There are three main research areas: Automation and Mechatronics Engineering, Process Engineering in Construction is Business Model Engineering. In the first case, a team of experts made up of electrical, mechatronic and mechanical engineers develops projects for the smart factory of the future, from the first ideas to the finished prototype. Here we talk about digitization, creation of production networks, sensors, robotics and human-machine interaction. “Decisions are often made centrally and controlled by one person. We want to realize an autonomous and decentralized control, so as to reduce the production time of the products », explains Matt.
Augmented reality for the construction sector
The second area, on the other hand, deals with optimizing construction processes, with two approaches: on the one hand based on the principle of Lean Management, i.e. increasing value and avoiding waste, and on the other by digitizing processes through innovative information and communication technologies, like BIM. The BIM Simulation Lab, a laboratory where the digital information available is processed and displayed with augmented and virtual reality techniques. Finally, the third area deals with developing business models, decision support tools and strategic action plans for companies and institutions facing digital transformation.
An ARENA to showcase technology
And to make its business even more effective, Fraunhofer Italia at NOI Techpark has created ARENA (Area for REsearch & iNnovative Applications), an application center that functions as a real showcase in which the best 4.0 projects are presented: from robots that learn by imitation to automatic vehicles programmed to follow workers and avoid obstacles, even unexpected ones. Tools that concretely lead SMEs towards the future.