The University of Twente (UT) and Fraunhofer have entered into a long-term partnership in the area of applied technical science. The first step is the establishment of a Fraunhofer Project Centre for ‘Design and Production Engineering in Complex High-Tech Systems’ at UT, Fraunhofer's first representation in the Netherlands. Fraunhofer is Europe’s largest non-profit organisation for applied research and has a powerful international reputation. 66 research institutes are affiliated in Germany and 7 abroad. The cooperation is an important step in Twente's further development as a technological top region.
Fraunhofer institutes focus on translating fundamental scientific research into technological applications in industry. The institutes have significant autonomy for this. Fraunhofer generates an annual research budget of more than €2 billion. 65% of this comes directly from industry and publicly financed research projects. Its objectives are similar to those of TNO, the largest research institute in the Netherlands.
With evidence of success, the Fraunhofer Project Centre at the University of Twente can grow in the longer term to become an independent institute focusing on joint R&D projects with industry. For this, the University of Twente will cooperate closely with the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology (IPT) in Aachen, Germany.
The Project Centre focuses primarily on assignments based on issues from industry and from international cooperative projects. Young engineers from both the University of Twente and from Saxion will work on these projects under the supervision of experienced engineers. With the accrued expertise and the link with both research facilities, they will build an interesting portfolio that forms the foundation for a career in industry or for a PhD position.
Fraunhofer's approach provides a supplement to the ‘classical model’ of science by promoting a multiple-year course of PhD study at a university or in direct collaboration with a business. Multiple research and knowledge-development assignments of short duration and from various businesses can form the foundation for a PhD.
Prof. Fred van Houten, UT Professor of Design Engineering, has worked behind the scenes for years on the creation of the collaboration and on reinforcing the contacts with German industrial partners. The Fraunhofer contacts arose from his role as a member of the International Academy for Production Engineering (CIRP). Van Houten was president of the CIRP in 2011. Many of his German CIRP colleagues are directors of Fraunhofer Institutes.
“Fraunhofer stands for the social relevance of scientific research”, says Van Houten. “They bring research results directly to the market, to industry. The collaboration is an incredibly important step not only for Twente but also for all of the Netherlands. Due in part to the economic crisis, the government has come to realise in recent years that industry generates the money and jobs that keep our economy running. Even more than the service sector, which also remains important, of course. We're working hard in this region to develop Twente as a technological top region and we are certain that this collaboration fits and is even necessary to that goal. Germany is the most important hinterland for Twente."
Victor van der Chijs, chairman of the University of Twente's Board of Directors: “UT has an important position as a knowledge hub between Germany and the Netherlands and this cooperation is extremely important in order to strengthen it further. The intensive link with Germany is essential. Furthermore, this development fits within the renewed interest for the manufacturing industries in the Netherlands and for developments in the Smart Industry agenda and the Region of Smart Factories - in which UT is also represented. We look forward to an intensive and fruitful cooperation with Fraunhofer.”
"For the business community, the step from applied research to design and production of new materials and production methods is a vital one. The arrival of the Fraunhofer Project Centre allows the region to form even stronger chains in the areas of Advanced Materials and Advanced Manufacturing. This provides concrete substantiation of the Top Team's recommendations. For the Technology Base Twente, the arrival of the Institute means opportunities to organise collaboration in the pre-production phase. The Fraunhofer name and knowledge are hugely important to regional economic development," according to Aad Veenman, the Top Team chairman.
“Strengthening the bonds between the University of Twente and the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft is a recognition of the robust knowledge base in Twente in the areas of high-tech design, production and research”, says Eddy van Hijum, the representative of the Province of Overijssel. “It is a fine substantiation of the Wientjes Commission and the work of the Top Team for a Technology Base Twente with international cooperation in the areas of high-tech systems and new materials.”
Board Chairman Victor van der Chijs and Prof. Fred van Houten signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on behalf of the University of Twente. On Fraunhofer's behalf, the signatories were President Reimund Prof. Neugebauer and Prof. Fritz Klocke, director of the Institute for Production Technology in Aachen, an intensive collaborator. The collaborative agreement was signed in Capetown, South Africa. Miriam Luizink, Director of Strategic Business Development at UT, will be in charge of the business side of the collaboration.