Transfer projects: A tandem innovative leap

Andreas Nettsträter, Department of Strategic Initiatives at Fraunhofer IML

Transferring knowledge and technology to companies is a critical success factor for applied research. So-called transfer projects aim specifically at small and medium-sized companies – and they soon pay off in many ways.  Logistics research is considered pioneer and driver of the development of Industry 4.0. Andreas Nettsträter of Fraunhofer IML about an innovative format of cooperation between science and business that is increasingly establishing in Germany.


In transfer projects, small and medium-sized companies can gain access to technologies, procedures and methods developed in research projects and transfer those projects into practice. With the support of the science community – and virtually in tandem – they are able to develop tailor-made solutions for company-specific problems. However, these ought to have an exemplary character for other companies as well. The aim of the transfer projects is to enable companies to make major innovative and technological leaps forward. The projects promise small and medium-sized companies straightforward access to R & D – with assessable risks and noticeable effects.


Transfer projects are offered in Dortmund – the research stronghold of logistics in Europe – for example in the context of »Digital in NRW«, an Industry 4.0  Competence Centre for SMEs, and the research project Innovation Laboratory Hybrid Services in Logistics where research is done on solutions for the human-technology interaction in a Social Networked Industry. More than 20 transfer projects were conducted already, some are still ongoing. In 2018, there are about 10 new projects still to come.


Transfer projects are characterised by quick, lean and effective implementation within just a few months and with little administrative and financial outlay.

  • Companies get support relevant to their current technological status.
  • The specific requirements of medium-sized companies are taken into consideration accordingly.
  • Companies can simply try out new technologies.
  • By formulating precise and focussed questions in transfer projects, research results can be implemented immediately.

Right from the beginning of a project, i.e. during the ongoing process, the employees in the company benefit from the scientists’ methodological skills: they can copy models and solutions for their daily business that reduce their workload immediately. The results from any project – from optimising internal processes and setting up new business models, through to implementing new innovative products – stay in the company and can be used immediately.


It is vital for both transfer projects and other research projects to realise that investigating future topic areas in this way can ensure companies to be at the cutting edge with their knowledge and give them a competitive advantage. And: customers clearly rate this sort of commitment as a positive indication of a company’s sustainability!


The application process is as unbureaucratic as possible: Companies that want to participate have to contribute ideas – developed together with the scientists – and describe them in a one- or two-page outline proposal. If the idea is shortlisted, a more comprehensive project application must be made. The transfer projects are finally selected on this basis.



Andreas Nettsträter, Department of Strategic Initiatives at Fraunhofer IML, is responsible for network management and knowledge transfer in the Innovationlab.



You can find information about transfer projects at the website of the Innovationlab Hybrid Services in Logistics. Companies’ success stories can be found on the website of the Competence Centre for SMEs (only available in German).