Future qualification — paving the way for innovation

The technological transformation is increasing the pressure on companies to innovate. They need to bring in new technologies and appropriately train and further-educate employees. Fraunhofer IAO provides companies with the necessary expertise.

The German industrial sector is on the precipice of a radical revolution. Electromobility, sustainable energy concepts, artificial intelligence and quantum computing, to name a few, all challenge existing business models — but they also offer the opportunity for organizations to reposition themselves. The new technologies will shake things up somewhat. That’s why companies who want to achieve their potential must start now with training employees, identifying challenges and developing solutions — and Fraunhofer IAO is here to support them on this journey.

Training employees in electromobility and regenerative energy concepts

For example, when it comes to training your workforce. Dr. Josephine Hofmann leads the “Collaboration and Leadership” team at Fraunhofer IAO. Together with her team and nine other partners, such as educational service providers and handicraft companies, she is working on a professional education concept that should help companies to train their employees in dealing with electromobility and regenerative energy concepts. The program “BexElektro2024” is initially focusing on the areas of electromobility, regenerative energies and smart home concepts. “We wanted to create a professional training program that is equivalent in terms of value — although not the same in terms of content and approach — to an academic education,” Hofmann explains. It should therefore make the educational courses more attractive. “And we want to show that development processes for professional learning modules can be made significantly more agile and developed more closely to market needs.” The training concept built around modules should transform professionals into specialists in the three focus areas and can go up to Masters level. After all, the subject areas are highly complex, so specialists are exactly what is needed, says Hofmann: “For example, installing a wallbox is a very demanding task. You need to know exactly what you’re doing, otherwise you’ll get a serious electric shock.” But it also goes beyond the technical knowledge. “Anyone who is advising customers on smart-home installation must also know how to effectively communicate in a situation.”

Three professional training providers are involved, as well as companies whose employees should benefit from “BexElektro” and providers of relevant technology components. The structure of the part-time learning pathway has been created, and now, until 2024, the model will be monitored to see how well it functions in practice.

Making quantum computing useable

Training employees is one aspect of preparing the German economy for the future. The other is the practical application of the relevant technologies. This is where Dr. Christian Tutschku comes in. He heads up the Quantum Computing Team at Fraunhofer IAO. Since 2020, the institute has been jointly responsible, together with Fraunhofer IAF, for coordinating the “Competence Center for Quantum Computing” in Baden-Württemberg. “At the present time it is still, in some cases, totally unclear how we will be able to utilize quantum technology for wide-spread industrial applications in the near future,” he says. That’s why the experts at the competence center are currently working on identifying concrete application areas, which should show where the new silver bullet can fully develop its promised potential. “This involves the manufacturing industry, for example in terms of cutting patterns for sheet metal, but also things such as charging column infrastructure for electric cars or CFD simulations for flow and mixing processes,” Tutschku explains.

Qubits are the core of quantum computing. They function similarly to bits in classic computing. Their advantage is that while bits work with binary code — either a “zero” or a “one” — and thereby represent digital information as a series of ones and zeroes, qubits can be zero and one at the same time. This is what experts call a “super position”. Consequently: When scenarios are calculated, for example, multiple possibilities can be played out simultaneously and thus a lot more quickly. This offers huge advantages when analyzing and processing large amounts of data.

Quantum computers will probably become crucial one day but, “considering the current state of research, it’s not yet lucrative for companies themselves to research this,” says Tutschku. That is why it is the scientists, together with a large network of innovative companies, that are currently solving concrete application problems. The researchers now have access to the largest commercially utilizable quantum computer in Europe. This is in Quantum Village Ehningen near Stuttgart, Germany, and is run by US IT firm IBM. In the past, the competence center was also involved in helping IBM set up the quantum infrastructure.

“For us it is especially important that our solutions are widely applicable,” says Tutschku. “For example, if you compute the ideal driving route for a logistics firm’s fleet of vehicles, you can also apply this concept later elsewhere.” The specific fields of application differ from organization to organization, of course. “But the fundamental mathematical problem is often the same.” That’s why the researchers are making their results publicly accessible via open source.

Future qualification: Looking for support?

Fraunhofer IAO supports companies and public institutions with innovation processes. In order to help companies keep pace with the swiftly transforming world of work, we offer various means for training employees on technical innovations. You can find a selection of our services in the area of future qualification here.

Training courses on quantum computing

The two Fraunhofer Institutes IAO and IAF offer training to interested parties, to inform them about the functionality and various applications of quantum computers.

“AI made easy!”

This qualification program, run by the experts at BIEC, shows even non-professionals that it’s relatively simple to recognize the innovation potential of artificial intelligence, learn about it and implement the first few projects within the organization.

New Mobility Academy

The aim of the qualification initiative is to prepare small and medium-sized companies and suppliers in particular for the transformation of the automotive industry and to identify new potential for value creation.

Competence Center for Smart Services

The competence center supports small and medium-sized service providers on their journey to a digital future. Here, companies can find out about new digital technologies in the service sector, among other things.