RWTH Aachen Launches Two Winning Projects in Research Campus Funding Initiative

© Martin Lux

The Aachen university succeeded in the funding initiative "Research Campus – Public-Private Partnership for Innovations" of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF): two submissions from RWTH Aachen Campus clusters were approved. Research on digital photonic production and electric grids of the future will be funded with up 30 million Euros for a maximum of 15 years.


According to Thomas Rachel, Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Education and Research,  “the research campus models  funded by the BMBF have great innovative potential, as they pool the resources of academia, industry, and research. We can expect a new qualitative level in both electric grids and the energy-efficient use of lasers in production and component manufacturing.”

 “With these funding decisions, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research provides sustainable support for the establishment of our research campus in the Melaten area," explains RWTH Rector Ernst Schmachtenberg. "The approval is a further important step on the way to achieving our goal of becoming one of the best integrated interdisciplinary universities of technology in the world by 2020.”

The competition had a broad response from the German research community. With two submissions, RWTH Aachen managed to be among the ten winners. In September 2012, Annette Schavan, the Federal Minister of Research, announced the winners with both jury chairs Henning Kagermann, President of the National Academy of Science and Engineering, acatech for short, and Ernst Rietschel, President of the Leibnitz Association.

Local Collaboration Between Academia and Industry

The BMBF initiative seeks to strengthen the local collaboration between academia and industry. In the funding period, the activities and resources of the contributing partners from research and industry shall be pooled, so as to provide a strong basis for sustainable economic growth. The BMBF competition is targeted at innovative public-private partnerships at the pre-implementation or implementation stage. For participation in the competition, it is required that the applying institutions also contribute substantial funding to the research campus for projects not supported by the BMBF.

The RWTH Aachen Campus stretches over a total of 2.5 square kilometers, on which around 100 businesses, 18 of which are international, and 31 RWTH Aachen chairs and one teaching area from the Aachen University of Applied Sciences are currently located.

Electrical Grids of the Future

According to Professor Rik W. De Doncker , Head of the RWTH Institute for Power Electronics and Electrical Drives (ISEA) and Director of the E.ON Energy Research Center at RWTH Aachen, the goal of the cluster Future Electrical Grids is to enable a more efficient and flexible transfer and distribution of electrical engergy without compromising the security of power supply in Germany. It investigates direct current networks for all three voltage levels.

In order to ensure compatability with the exisiting grid infrastructure, possible cross-sections of new systems are extensively investigated. The cluster also observes a growing permeability between different energy networks such as electricity, gas, heat, for example the conversion of (excess) wind energy into water or change into synthetic biogas with the help of power to gas technology. There is great potential for the storage and transport of energy in existing structures.

Digital Photonic Production

The goal of the cluster Digital Photonic Production is to research basic physical effects and new methods for the use of light as a tool in future manufacturing. Digital photonic production makes possible the direct production of virtually any products from digital data. In contrast to conventional processes, small quantities and complex products in small dimensions, different materials, and the most complicated geometries can be produced at a reasonable cost. According to Professor Reinhart Poprawe, RWTH Chair for Laser Technology and Director of the Fraunhofer Institute of Laser technology, “some even consider this as a new industrial revolution.” In order to fully exploit the potential of digital photonic production, process chains must be considered as a whole. The new construction of industrial process chains ranges from upstream and downstream stages of production to the component design to completely new business models such as mass customization or open innovation.