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Promoting Smart Materials

WING - Materials Innovations for Industry and Society

Inaugurated in 2004, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research's (BMBF) "WING" (Werkstoffinnovationen für Industrie und Gesellschaft - "Materials Innovations for Industry and Society") funding program provides new financial impulse to the interdisciplinary-based materials technology sector. Wing combines traditional materials research with research on chemical technologies and materials-specific nanotechnology. Annual funding in the region of EUR 90 million is made available within the framework of the program.

New materials are the motor for new production processes and products. Over and above this, new materials also make a vital contribution to significantly reducing manufacturing and production costs - material cost share in the manufacturing sector still accounts for around 50 percent of total costs. Savings made through the efficient deployment of materials can represent a significant competitive advantage.

More than two thirds of all technological breakthroughs have a direct or indirect relationship to applied materials. As well as making the products and services of tomorrow's world possible, smart materials are also the lifeblood driving competitiveness and productive capabilities in the modern global economy. Germany's world-class automotive, engineering and machinery, ICT, metal and electrical, chemical, and medical technology industries are largely material technology based.

WING Objectives

WING was brought into being as the result of close partnership with materials manufacturers and users from large and small and medium-sized enterprises alike and with representatives drawn from the relevant academic scientific organizations of the DFG (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft – "German Research Foundation") and the DGM (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Materialkunde - "German Materials Society").

The objectives of the WING initiative are as follows:

  • Strengthening of individual company innovative capacity
  • Consideration of societal needs
  • Use of research and technology for sustainable development

Adopting a holistic approach to materials-based product innovation, WING makes provision for the safeguarding of societal needs and wants as well as questions of sustainability from a materials development perspective.

The WING program pursues the following goals at the project level:

  • Develop new products and processes of social benefit
  • Accelerate the innovation process in industry by establishing efficient industry-science partnership structures involving small and medium-sized enterprises
  • Contribute to solving societal problems (and more specifically, those brought about by demographic change)
  • Link R&D with education and training
  • Contribute to the establishment of the European Research Area and strength the international dimension of research
  • Extend bilateral cooperation with other countries

WING Industry Sector Priorities

The BMBF is focusing funding in the sectors of mechanical engineering, vehicle construction, chemicals, electrical engineering/electronics, and ICT. Ten exemplary fields of activity have been identified.

1. Nanotechnology materials concepts
2. Computational materials science
3. Bionic materials
4. Materials, chemistry, and the life sciences
5. Substances and reactions
6. Layers and interfaces
7. Mobility, energy and information; lightweight construction
8. Resource-efficient materials
9. Intelligent materials
10. Electromagnetic functional materials

The 10 action fields are all characterized by a highly interdisciplinary approach. Industry-led research partnerships between companies and institutes continue to be the main funding instrument. Ideally, the collaborative projects cover the individual value-adding stages in materials development with the aim of ensuring the efficient commercialization of research results in the long run.

These 10 initial industry sector-related priorities were subsequently extended (2007) to include the following funding focal points:

  • Energy efficiency and environmental protection: new materials for power stations and power drives which promote better use of energy and CO2 reductions.
  • Economical materials applications in the electronics sector: flexible solar cells and energy-saving lighting using OLEDs
  • Nanotechnology applications in the building, construction and architecture sectors for technical textiles
  • New materials in the field of medicine including bioactive implants
  • Accelerated development of new materials and applications with the aid of computer simulations


Dr. Thorsten Bug Thorsten Bug | © GTAI/Illing & Vossbeck Fotografie

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