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Promoting Smart Materials

Technology and Innovation Policy: New Initiatives for a Technology-Friendly Germany

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The Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK) has identified seven key technology sectors (energy research, electromobility, aerospace, aviation research, traffic and logistics systems, innovative maritime technologies, and industrial key technologies) as part of its High-Tech Strategy 2020 aims. Complementary to the five main policy areas of climate/energy, health/nutrition, mobility, security, and communication, the key technology sectors will help make Germany technologically fit for the future.

The industrial key technologies category is of particular relevance to smart materials activity, as modern production technologies are of major significance to industry and a motor for "smart production."

Within the "New Initiatives for a Technology-Friendly Germany" publication, special focus is paid to Horizon 2020, the European Commission’s proposal for a new Europe-wide research and innovation framework programme.

Horizon 2020 - The Framework Programme for Research and Innovation

Horizon 2020 plans to bring together the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP) and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) starting in 2014. Horizon 2020 will have access to funding of approximately EUR 80 billion for a period of seven years (2014-2020).

Horizon 2020 strengthens and consolidates the efforts which Germany has been making and continues to make as part of its High-Tech Strategy.

Horizon 2020 - Aims and Objectives

The new framework programme covers three key objectives:

1. Excellent Science
2. Industrial Leadership
3. Challenges for Society

The second "Industrial Leadership" pillar of the Horizon 2020 initiative will promote industrial leadership by supporting innovation, increasing market uptake, stimulating private investment in research and innovation, and strengthening the participation of innovative SMEs.

A number of key industrial leadership areas, including materials, have been identified within the "Industrial Leadership" priority objective areas of Horizon 2020. A proposed budget of more than EUR 6 billion has been allocated to the key enabling technologies.

Leadership role in key technologies and industrial technologies:

  • Information and Communication Technology
  • Nanotechnology
  • Materials
  • Biotechnology
  • Production and Process Technology
  • Aerospace

Horizon 2020 - Advanced Materials Objectives

Cross-cutting and Enabling Materials Technologies
Research on functional materials, multifunctional materials such as self-repairing or biocompatible materials and structural materials, for innovation in all industrial sectors particularly for high value markets.

Materials Development and Transformation
Research and development to ensure efficient and sustainable scale up to enable industrial manufacturing of future products e.g. in the metal or chemical industries.

Management of Materials Components
Research and development for new and innovative techniques and systems, joining, adhesion, separation, assembly, self-assembly and disassembling, decomposition and deconstruction.

Materials for a Sustainable Industry
Developing new products and applications and consumer behavior that reduce energy demand and facilitate low-carbon production, as well as process intensification, recycling, depollution and high added-value materials from waste and remanufacture.

Materials for Creative Industries
Applying design and the development of converging technologies to create new business opportunities, including the preservation of Europe's materials with historical or cultural value.

Metrology, Characterization, Standardization and Quality Control
Promoting technologies such as characterization, non-destructive evaluation and predictive modeling of performance for progress in materials science and engineering.

Optimization of the Use of Materials
Research and development to investigate alternatives to the use of materials and innovative business model approaches.

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

10 Point Program for Material Sciences and Materials Technology

Germany attaches major significance to the material sciences. Materials are essential innovation motors in nearly all industry sectors, with material research results playing an essential role in solutions to pressing megatrend questions of mobility, climate and environmental protection, energy provision, health, communication, and security.

The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), within the framework of the High-Tech Strategy, has drawn up a 10 point program promoting research and development in the material science and technology sectors. The future focal points of research activity promoted are as listed below.

I. Material science and technology key to building the future

1. Material sciences make system innovations possible
Multi-material systems create the conditions for the realization of breakthrough system innovations. Diverse materials and manufacturing and production processes should be adapted in order to develop materials with tailored functionality.

2. Material technology is an innovation driver for key industry sectors
The material technology sector makes a significant contribution to consolidating Germany's global leadership in key industry sectors including mechanical engineering and plant construction, chemicals, optomechanics and optics, and construction as well as the automotive and vehicle sectors. Modeling and simulation support the targeted development of new materials.

II. Future material science and technology focal points

3. Material science and technology key to a mobile future
Research endeavors being made in the battery technology sector will be built upon in order to drive the market entry of energy-efficient, resource-saving and high-performance electric vehicles.

4. Material science and technology key to sustainable energy provision and climate and environmental protection
Material science and technology make a significant contribution to future urban technologies which allow the significant energy-savings potential in the buildings sector to be used.

5. Material science and technology innovation drivers in health research
Functional materials will revolutionize regenerative medicine. Aging societies generate increased demand for materials which either replace human tissue, bones and discs or allow such structures to be developed and absorbed into the human body. A cumulative approach combining medicine and engineering-based approaches is becoming increasingly important in diagnostics and therapeutics.

6. Material science and technology innovation drivers in information and communication technologies
Research should help organic electronics to break through. Organic electronics have the potential to fundamentally change established value chains in a number of sectors (including communication, lighting, and logistics) and open up diverse market opportunities for innovative businesses.

7. Material science and technology innovation drivers in security technology
Multifunctional materials make security technology innovations possible. To do so, they must combine high resistance to extreme loads with integrated sensor functions.

III. Strengthening new approaches to material science and technology in Germany

8. "Thinking from material to product" - forming strategic partnerships
Eventual product applications should be considered more strongly – even in the material development phase. New innovation alliances between science and industry should be formed to this end.

9. Nanomaterials opportunities and risk public dialogue
Actors from science, industry and politics should initiate a public dialogue concerning nanotechnology, creating awareness of the pros and cons of nanotechnology-based materials and applications and promoting responsible use of nanotechnology.

10. Safeguard young talent, promote interdisciplinarity
Excellent research infrastructure at research institutes, universities and technical colleges should be built upon and used. New interdisciplinary research and application-oriented academic courses of study should be set up.

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