Using New Technologies to Forge a Path to Tomorrow's Innovations
One of the essential foundations for creating a successful company over the long term is to identify technological trends from an early stage and to exploit the opportunities that new technologies offer for product innovations. However, factors such as the hugely dynamic nature of technological progress make it increasingly difficult for companies to comprehensively identify technology-related opportunities and to harness them in a goal-oriented manner. A key prerequisite for successful technology development therefore lies in the ability of an organization to rapidly and efficiently align the requirements of the market with the potential offered by new technologies and to integrate the results in its own products and processes.
The methods and organizational solutions developed in the Technology and Innovation Management business unit to improve and synchronize research, innovation and technology development processes have been shown to trigger success in the market: companies whose technology development capabilities have been properly organized achieve higher growth, increased profitability and an enhanced competitive edge.
The Technology and Innovation Management business unit focuses on the following key topics:
Developing and implementing innovation and technology strategies
Increasing organizations' capacity for innovation
Organizing innovation and research and development (R&D) effectively and efficiently using lean processes
Identifying, evaluating and exploiting new technologies
Setting up and supporting technology and innovation networks
Intellectual property: IP for innovation
IT support for R&D, technology and innovation management
We respond rapidly and professionally to our customers' needs by carrying out projects to enhance technology and innovation management. To do this, we draw on expertise from a wealth of research activities dealing with the development of scientifically-based innovative concepts, while also utilizing the experience we have acquired from comparable projects in which we developed application-oriented methods and tools. We are also fortunate to have access to an extensive range of research within the Fraunhofer network, which allows us to exploit specific skills and synergies.
The Technology and Innovation Management business unit develops strategies, methods and concepts that support companies in identifying and evaluating new technologies. This provides the basis for designing future research, development and innovation processes in a more practical and effective manner.
We achieve this in two ways: firstly, by employing a tried-and-tested method of technology and innovation management that has already been successfully deployed in various companies and organizations and, secondly, by incorporating the very latest findings from applied research and merging both these resources into practical, workable solutions.
We primarily focus on the following fields of application:
We determine how our customers can position themselves in a way that strikes a balance between absolute leadership and a leading role in innovation, and between technological differentiation and cost leadership. This requires us to develop customer-specific strategic initiatives that make targeted use of new technologies and product innovations for both new and existing markets.
In addition, we provide practical solutions to the questions of which strategic alliances make practical sense and how they can be put to use. We use roadmaps to make detailed plans for implementation and ensure that these new initiatives are properly embedded in the company's project portfolio.
We run an »Innovation Audit« to systematically analyze and evaluate all the key factors behind a company's capacity for innovation. This systematic analysis reveals where the company's strengths and weaknesses lie.
We also draw on more than 2000 sets of comparable data from Germany and from across Europe in order to better assess a company's capacity for innovation and to elaborate best practice solutions.
The key to an efficient organization is lean, flexible and clearly manageable processes. In order to create efficient networks and cooperative alliances for innovations and R&D, we tap into our expertise and experience to support companies and organizations in deploying modern lean development organizational concepts and in setting up pre-development facilities.
Our R&D assessment and methods to measure and depict R&D performance enable companies to build up targeted competitive advantages.
Modern design concepts and IT tools such as CAD/CAX and PDM/PLM, configurators, and other simulation and project management tools, facilitate efficient technology and product development. Nevertheless, this inevitably rests on the assumption that all the components have been optimally selected and integrated to match each company's specific situation.
Thanks to our extensive knowledge and experience with implementation projects, our partners and customers can be confident that we will help select, integrate and implement exactly the right systems. For example, we can help you to reliably avoid the risk of making wrong decisions that lead to unnecessary costs by comparing your company's situation with requirements and solutions from similar projects – right from the very start.
We work on behalf of our clients to investigate how technologies are set to develop in the future and how they will align with future market requirements. One example of the support we can provide is the »Fraunhofer Technology Radar«, which companies can use to systematically identify new technologies and assess their applicability to the development of new products.
Making the leap from the technology to innovative products that can be successfully positioned in the market is a step that frequently requires new business models. We use a creative yet systematic process to develop and evaluate alternative business models that are optimally tailored both to the features offered by the technology and to the requirements and potential of the market.
High purchase prices and looming shortages have made the minimal use of energy and resources into a key future requirement for all markets. We deploy our Resource Efficiency Radar to identify which new materials, (nano-)coatings and production methods represent the best choice. By specifically catering to this crucial issue of resource efficiency, this process gives our customers an overview of the contribution that new technologies can make to their future products.
As well as the direct links to other project partners, work conducted in collaboration with companies that offer complementary skills also delivers the advantage of being able to investigate topics in far greater detail than in bilateral projects, while employing the same amount of resources.
In order to further enhance its own range of skills, the Fraunhofer IAO is currently setting up innovation networks dealing with the topics of »Electric Mobility« and »New Materials«.
This task involves far more than just applying for and managing patents. Adequately comprehensive protective mechanisms must be selected and implemented both for existing technological potential and for the potential offered by new technologies.
Under the title of »IP4Innovation«, we have collaborated with industry partners to develop a series of methods and tools that support companies in intelligently managing and exploiting their intellectual property.
Innovative companies require an information infrastructure capable of supporting them throughout the development, production, sales and utilization of their products. This includes factors such as the integrated deployment of CAD, distributed product development using PDM systems, well-chosen system architectures, and methods and tools for cost-oriented product development. Our information and presentation centers offer companies the opportunity to learn more about a broad range of systems and solutions. This enables our customers to cherry-pick the most suitable system environment for their technology and innovation management processes from among all the components available on the market.
They also support users in planning, controlling, documenting and communicating product developments and technical changes. The evolution of each product is clearly documented while maintaining full traceability of all the processes involved. That is why PDM systems make such a valuable contribution to quality management over the long term.
The PDM Information Center provides companies with neutral, system-independent support as they seek to select and implement PDM/PLM systems tailored to their specific requirements. The specialist staff at the Fraunhofer IAO have recourse to expertise acquired from numerous projects involving the restructuring of organizational units and possess extensive experience in the fields of process management and process-oriented team-building.
We engage in a wide variety of research projects to develop and test new methods and innovative procedures for technology and innovation management. Many of our projects are commissioned by funding partners such as the European Union, the German federal ministry of education and research (BMBF) and the Land of Baden-Württemberg. We use the results of these research activities to enhance the work we perform on behalf of our customers.
We are currently engaged in numerous areas of research, including the following:
In addition, maintaining a competitive edge in the future often means that companies have to adopt new business models. Our analyses of leading innovators confirm just how important it is for companies to step up their activities in networked environments and to open up their innovation processes.
We are currently investigating how an open innovation management system can be designed to comprise both the entire value network and external information sources at the same time. Finding suitable forms of cooperation that allow partner companies, suppliers and customers to draw mutual benefits from their innovation potential is one of the key tasks we have set ourselves, along with elaborating concepts to transform ideas into successful innovations – even if your own company lacks the necessary specialist skills and technological resources. We develop, test and implement the design concepts this requires as well as the tools and applications that facilitate and foster open innovation management.
From the moment someone decides to buy a product, different criteria will come into play depending on the type of buyer.
Our researchers are engaged in drawing up concepts to facilitate the design of products that respect this diversity. The question of how to develop and produce innovative products that are specifically tailored to different user groups – without diminishing efficiency – is one of the key issues we tackle, along with the question of identifying suitable marketing strategies. One of the main resources we tap into is the generally under-used potential of the company itself, namely the diversity among the company's employees who would normally include men and women, a range of age groups and a variety of origins. We exploit this internal diversity during the product development processes to generate more creative ideas for innovative products that are truly capable of catering to a diverse range of customers.
A systematic system of technology foresight is an essential part of continuously adapting a company's technology development and planning processes to face new challenges. To find the best way of achieving this in everyday business practice, we develop methods that can be used to reliably identify new technologies, determine their maturity and evaluate their economic and ecological potential. Using tools such as the scenario technique, we can help you analyze possible development paths, thereby allowing you to derive possible courses of action for your organization. Analyses of potential can subsequently be run to identify specific, potential applications for a specialist technology. In addition, our research activities focus on the goal of finding the best structure for cooperation networks in order to foster technology foresight, as well as on developing methods of integrating the information obtained from technology foresight into companies' strategic R&D management systems.
Results garnered from research projects investigating which methods and tools can be used to establish efficient technology development capabilities in research and industry can also be found in the book entitled »Fokus Technologien. Chancen erkennen, Leistungen entwickeln« (Focus on Technologies: Identifying Opportunities and Developing Products and Services).
Especially when it comes to emerging technologies that are on the threshold of entering the marketplace, it is crucial to determine as precisely as possible which potential applications could arise from putting the technology into practice.
We also work on behalf of our project partners to identify the pre-requisites for utilizing the respective technologies, to analyze profitability and environmental aspects and to develop application scenarios, as well as supporting them in the technology transfer process. The fields we deal with include information and communication technology, new materials, nanotechnology, organic photovoltaics, technologies for microencapsulation and material/energy efficiency, building services and facilities technology and technologies for the electric vehicles of the future.
Innovative companies should always ensure they are being kept up-to-date on crucial issues such as new technological developments and the opportunities they offer and emerging risks that could threaten the success of their business. Unfortunately, the sheer volume of electronic information that is available leaves traditional search methods hopelessly out of their depth.
That is why we employ search tools that can automatically analyze even very large quantities of documents and that use semantic relationships to quickly locate relevant information. Key objects and expressions are reliably detected by the software agents, automatically catalogued and then presented in the form of clear diagrams that reveal how the information links up. The ability to swiftly carry out this time-consuming examination of documents virtually at the push of a button means that staff are left with more time to analyze the information in greater detail.
In the course of our research projects, we are constantly working on the development of next-generation search tools. Our efforts focus on providing the systems with additional self-learning abilities to further reduce the time required for configuration and to boost the quality of the search results. At the same time, most of the parameters are designed to be freely adjustable to enable systems to be rapidly and accurately tailored to the many different tasks they face in different companies. Some of the very latest findings from the fields of machine learning and computer linguistics find their very first practical applications in the work we perform in this area.
Achieving this provides a basis for tapping into the needs and potential of the market, factoring in the special features of the new technology and making optimum use of unique selling points such as a company's specific resources and skills.
It is essential to develop and evaluate new business models at an early stage, particularly in the case of disruptive technologies that have the potential to displace a technology that currently holds a dominant position. To support this process, we can elaborate both the methods required for systematic development processes and the tools used to simulate and evaluate business models. We are currently devoting significant resources to investigate changes in the value creation architecture of the automotive industry that have been induced by electric vehicle drive technologies, as well as changes in the development of operational models for electric vehicles. In fact, the Fraunhofer IAO is currently leading a research project entitled »Value Creation Architectures of an Electric Vehicle Automotive Industry« in the Fraunhofer e-mobility systems research project, which is supported by the German federal ministry of education and research (BMBF) and the German federal ministry for the environment, nature conservation and nuclear safety (BMU). The innovation network FutureCar (FuCar) gives companies from the supplier industry the opportunity to collaborate with the Fraunhofer IAO, the Fraunhofer IISB and the company Protoscar to develop concrete ideas regarding their future positioning in the electric mobility value chain and to develop appropriate strategies.
The research and development department can benefit to much the same degree as other areas of a company from the innovative opportunities fostered through networking and departmental structures. For example, the fact that many development processes are no longer conducted in workshops and laboratories but rather in virtual computer environments means that the organization and infrastructure of future-oriented R&D departments are spread across international sites in a network. This also enables them to be directly tied into customers' product development cycles.
To prepare companies for such changes and to point out both possible challenges and opportunities, we regularly identify the prevailing trends affecting research and development. We are also engaged in tackling additional related issues within a number of research projects, including the question of how these trends will affect the work of R&D managers and what effect they will have on the working environment and skills requirements of R&D staff.
In many cases, this calls for extended opportunities for cooperation that go beyond regional boundaries, particularly in the field of research and development. For companies to maintain and extend their competitive edge, it is therefore vital to have methods and systems in place that enable collaboration within virtual, networked and mobile teams. This is a particularly crucial factor for small and medium-sized enterprises.
The goal of our research activities is to set up flexible platforms for collaborative virtual product development while paying particular attention to the needs of small and medium-sized companies. Mobile access to relevant data and applications enables work to be carried out in distributed project teams and allows R&D staff to get involved in development processes regardless of where they are located.
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In addition, we develop and test structures and techniques that can be used to expand the basis of technological expertise within companies by providing them with access to technological and market-related expert knowledge from the full range of competencies offered by the Fraunhofer institutes.
The Competence Team supports companies in planning and implementing projects that aim to enhance and develop their individual technology management systems. We also carry out technology studies covering a wide range of different topics. The results of these studies provide an important basis for further research and decision-making within companies.
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We also investigate possible ways in which innovation processes can be optimized and accelerated. The knowledge we acquire in this process allows us to derive concrete recommendations on what steps our customers should take, as well as to support them in carrying out these steps.
One of the main points we focus on is how to integrate the development of product-related services in the innovation process and the how to structure the open innovation processes in organizational terms. We also endeavor to answer the question of how suitable business models for innovative products and services can be designed and tested and how companies' intellectual property (IP) can be protected and exploited.
It is important that the underused potential represented by the diversity that exists among customers and staff should increasingly become an integral part of innovation management. We analyze different approaches towards implementing this potential and models for putting it into practice.
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The topics they deal with range from organizational and strategic issues for efficient R&D structures to supporting development processes with innovative IT applications and carrying out forward-looking analyses of corporate development for technology-intensive companies.
We assist companies worldwide in overcoming new challenges such as shorter product cycles, increasingly complex products and processes, globalization and steadily growing customer requirements. Depending on the scope of each specific task, we offer our partners and customers services ranging from joint research projects and assessments, seminars and workshops right through to longer-term consulting work and implementation support.