Sustainable transformation

How we are future-proofing the economy and society

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The twenty-sixth UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), which took place in Glasgow in November 2021, closed with a historic decision: For the first time in the history of world climate conferences, all countries agreed on an accelerated global energy transition away from coal-fired power. Germany aims to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 65% by 2030 — achieving climate neutrality by 2045. But how can these targets be met?

For many years now, Fraunhofer IAO has been working on how to shape this transformation process in a positive way. The need for change has never been greater: Climate change is forcing us to radically rethink the way we live. Another driver of transformation is digitalization, which is rapidly revolutionizing every aspect of life. And, if that were not enough, we are still dealing with the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic, which completely changed the way in which we work almost overnight.

As a research institute working at the interface between science and industry, we support our customers and partners in addressing their transformation challenges. We work with them to develop transformation strategies, introduce transformation processes, harness the potential of innovative technologies and develop new business models. We see challenges as opportunities — and are paving the way for a future in which all can benefit: industry, society and the environment.

In this Annual Report, we will show you how sustainability can be achieved in different areas using a few examples. In four key topics, we will present the transformation processes that are required — from climate-friendly restructuring of companies to the future of urban mobility to hybrid working environments to continuing education in the era of digitalization — and showcase specific projects that we are working on, or have already implemented, with our partners.

Looking at this project landscape, it is clear that digitalization is more than just a technological upgrade; its consequences for the economy and society are much more far-reaching. For example, e-mobility and digitalization are interlinking the energy, mobility and urban development sectors. Traditional sector boundaries are becoming permeable, leading to the emergence of new business areas and models. What this means for businesses in concrete terms lies at the heart of numerous research projects conducted by Fraunhofer IAO and its collaboration partners.

In the field of artificial intelligence (AI), we can look back on a number of industry projects for a variety of sectors implemented with the help of the AI Innovation Center. AI can help design and implement innovations for bricks-and-mortar stores. The Competence Center for Smart Services is providing sustainable solutions for the retail sector.

Another digital revolution is on the agenda: quantum computing. We are therefore searching for ways to harness this technology in industry and have several ongoing projects to that end. In the “Quantum Computing Baden-Württemberg” competence center, companies can already put quantum applications to the test.

Due to the pandemic, there has been an urgent need to implement new forms of work. Building on our research work on innovative working environments, we have developed new solutions for collaboration as part of a large research project.

In this year’s Annual Report, we will provide an overview of these and other projects in the hope that we can inspire you: a sustainable future offers exciting possibilities if you are open to them. We also aim to provide you with a better understanding of the steps that will be required on this transformation journey.

We hope you enjoy reading the Annual Report.

The Institute Management team

Further information

Research Units

Fraunhofer IAO supports its clients in the following business areas

  • Organisational Development and Work Design
  • Service and Human Resources Management Systems
  • Human-Technology Interaction
  • Digital Business
  • Cognitive Engineering and Production
  • Urban Systems Engineering
  • Mobility and Innovation Systems
  • Smart Energy and Mobility Solutions
  • Cognitive Service Systems
  • Responsible Research and Innovation

Network/ cooperations

We collaborate closely with our branch labs and network partners on specific research topics. Branch labs: 

  • Center for Responsible Research and Innovation CeRRI, Berlin
  • Fraunhofer Innovation Engineering Center IEC, Bozen (Italy)
  • Garmisch-Partenkirchen location
  • KEIM Fraunhofer application center, Esslingen
  • LOGWERT – Competence Center for Logistics and Added Value, Heilbronn
  • KODIS – Research and Innovation Center for Cognitive Service Systems


Advisory board


The Advisory Board advises the institute’s directors in questions relating to professional orientation and structural change within the institute. The board comprises representatives from science, business and public life. Members of the board are appointed by the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft’s Executive Board in consultation with the institute’s management team.