Be it BMW, Würth, DB Schenker or Sick – they all focus on a new form of cooperative research: the "Fraunhofer Enterprise Labs". Together with researchers of Fraunhofer IML employees of the companies work on specific innovations on site. On 27 June the new premises for the think tanks of applied logistics research were inaugurated.
"The new Enterprise Lab Centre is the future of research. The combination of co-working spaces, state-of-the-art technical equipment and close form of cooperation opens an all-new dimension of interdisciplinary research and development between companies and Fraunhofer IML. Without the support of the State of North-Rhine Westphalia this would not have been possible", emphasises Prof. Dr. Dr. h. c. Michael ten Hompel, Managing Director of Fraunhofer IML.
The North-Rhine Westphalian Minister for Innovation, Science and Research, Svenja Schulze, got a first-hand impression of the new Enterprise Lab Centre during the opening ceremony. "This centre forms a milestone in the cooperation between business and science. It is a great opportunity, not only for logistics but for the entire economy in North-Rhine Westphalia. Many ideas originating from digitalization and "Industrie 4.0" will be specifically implemented in technological terms, so that man and environment will benefit from that in the end", said Schulze.
The main research emphasis in the Enterprise Lab Centre reaches from innovative logistics hardware, software and big data up to innovative business models. In contrast to currently standard project research an Enterprise Lab allows faster and more efficient research. For lab research is made for long-term duration and bases on a minimum three-year contract between the company and Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. Joint and basic principle is to implement new, agile and interdisciplinary forms of cooperative research and development. "A great advantage of the labs are the short official channels between business and research as well as between work place and modern infrastructure", explains ten Hompel. Thus, prototypes for products like for example micro SMD circuits with component sizes down to 0.1 mm can be developed, built and even produced in small batches directly on site in the new Lab Centre in a minimum of time.
This is made possible by merging the extensive processing capacities of Fraunhofer IML with the Enterprise Lab Center at one place: including mechanics, electronics and control technology. Even the mechanical shop floor of the Dortmund institute is connected to the Lab Center through a lift.
By altering parts of an existing test area new space for rooms could be provided. So, Fraunhofer IML created 435 m2 of new co-working space with nearly 50 work stations for the Enterprise Lab Center. The construction costs were taken over by the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, the equipment by Fraunhofer IML; the technical equipment was sponsored by the State NRW with a total of EUR 700,000.
"The fast pace of technological change requires a flexible adjustment of research focus to recent results and know-how. The concept of Enterprise Labs with its interaction between business and research allows exactly this development beyond rather static project thinking", explains Prof. Dr. Michael Henke, Director at Fraunhofer IML and moderator of the panel discussion at the opening ceremony.
Since 2013 the companies Sick AG, Würth Industrie Service, DB Schenker AG and not least BMW Group decided for the "Fraunhofer Enterprise Lab". Moreover, AUDI AG is committing itself in a similar way with the "Audi Logistics Lab" and the associated endowed chair of Prof. Dr. Boris Otto at TU Dortmund University.