Fraunhofer Society for the advancement of applied research and Fraunhofer Institutes. Part 1

The Fraunhofer Society  is a German research organization with 59 institutes spread throughout Germany, each focusing on different fields of applied science (as opposed to the max-planck-Gesellschaft, which works primarily on basic science). It employs around 17,000, mainly scientists and engineers, with an annual research budget of about €1.6 billion. Some basic funding for the Fraunhofer Society is provided by the state (the German public, through federal government together with the German Länder, "owns" the Fraunhofer Society), but about two-thirds of the funding are earned through contract work, either for government sponsored projects or from industry.

It is named after Joseph von Fraunhofer who, as a scientist, an engineer, and an entrepreneur, is said to have superbly exemplified the goals of the society.

The organisation has seven centers in the United States, under the name 'Fraunhofer USA', and three in Asia.

The official name of the Fraunhofer Society is Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der angewandten Forschung e. V. (German for "Fraunhofer Society for the advancement of applied research").

Notable Fraunhofer projects include:

The mp3 compression algorithm was invented and patented by Fraunhofer IIS. Its license revenues generated about €100,000,000 in revenue for the society in 2005.

As of May 2010, a metamorphic triple-junction solar cell developed by Fraunhofer's Institute for Solar Energy Systems holds the world record for solar energy conversion efficiency with 41.1%, nearly twice that of a standard silicon-based cell.

Fraunhofer is developing a program for use at IKEA stores, which would allow people to take a picture of their home into a store to view a fully assembled, digital adaptation of their room.

The Fraunhofer ModelThe so-called Fraunhofer Model has been in existence since 1973 and has led to the Society's continuing growth. Under the model, the Fraunhofer Society earns ca. 60% of its income through contracts with industry or specific government projects. The other 40% of the budget is sourced in the proportion 9:1 from federal and state (Land) government grants and is used to support preparatory research.

Thus the size of the society's budget depends largely on its success in maximizing revenue from commissions. This funding model applies not just to the central society itself but also to the individual institutes. This serves both to drive the realisation of the Fraunhofer Society's strategic direction of becoming a leader in applied research as well as encouraging a flexible, autonomous and entrepreneurial approach to the society's research priorities.


Joseph von Fraunhofer (6 March 1787 - 7 June 1826) was a German optician. He is known for the discovery of the dark absorption lines known as Fraunhofer lines in the Sun's spectrum, and for making excellent optical glass and achromatic telescope objectives.

Biography. Fraunhofer was born in Straubing, Bavaria. He became an orphan at the age of 11, and he started working as an apprentice to a harsh glassmaker named Philipp Anton Weichelsberger. In 1801, the workshop in which he was working collapsed and he was buried in the rubble. The rescue operation was led by Maximilian IV Joseph, Prince Elector of Bavaria (the future Maximilian I Joseph). The prince entered Fraunhofer's life, providing him with books and forcing his employer to allow the young Joseph Fraunhofer time to study.

After eight months of study, Fraunhofer went to work at the Optical Institute at Benediktbeuern, a secularised Benedictine monastery devoted to glass making. There he discovered how to make the world's finest optical glass and invented incredibly precise methods for measuring dispersion. In 1818, he became the director of the Optical Institute. Due to the fine optical instruments he had developed, Bavaria overtook England as the centre of the optics industry. Even the likes of Michael Faraday were unable to produce glass that could rival Fraunhofer's.

His illustrious career eventually earned him an honorary doctorate from the University of Erlangen in 1822. In 1824, he was awarded the order of merit, became a noble, and made an honorary citizen of Munich. Like many glassmakers of his era who were poisoned by heavy metal vapours, Fraunhofer died young, in 1826 at the age of 39. His most valuable glassmaking recipes are thought to have gone to the grave with him.

Scientific research. In 1814, Fraunhofer invented the spectroscope, and discovered 574 dark lines appearing in the solar spectrum. These were later shown to be atomic absorption lines, as explained by Kirchhoff and Bunsen in 1859. These lines are still called Fraunhofer lines in his honour.

Fraunhofer also developed a diffraction grating in 1821, which occurred after James Gregory discovered the principles of diffraction grating and after American astronomer David Rittenhouse invented the first man-made diffraction grating in 1785. Fraunofer found out that the spectra of Sirius and other first-magnitude stars differed from each other and from the sun, thus founding stellar spectroscopy.

Ultimately, however, his primary passion was still practical optics, once noting that "In all my experiments I could, owing to lack of time, pay attention to only those matter which appeared to have a bearing upon practical optics". In the early 1990s, a firm that designed and built refracting telescopes was named in his honor, Fraunhofer Systems Company, since the telescopes were based on his design but now the company is part of Burbank Optical Company.

History. The Fraunhofer Society was founded in Munich on 26 March 1949 by representatives of industry and academia, the government of Bavaria, and the nascent FederalRepublic.

In 1952, The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs declared the Fraunhofer Society to be the third part of the non-university German research landscape (alongside the German research councils (DFG) and the max planck Institutes). Whether the Fraunhofer Society should support applied research through its own facilities was however the subject of a long-running dispute.

From 1954, the Society's first institutes developed. By 1956 it was developing research facilities in cooperation with the Ministry of Defense. In 1959 the Fraunhofer Society comprised nine institutes with 135 co-workers and a budget of 3.6 million Deutsche marks.

In 1965, the Fraunhofer Society was identified as a sponsor organization for applied research.

In 1968, the Fraunhofer Society became the target of public criticism for its role in military research.

By 1969, Fraunhofer had more than 1,200 employees in 19 institutes. The budget stood at 33 million Deutsche marks. At this time a "commission for the promotion of the development of the Fraunhofer Society" planned the further development of the Fraunhofer Society (FhG). The commission developed a financing model that would make the Society dependent on its commercial success. This would later come to be known as the Fraunhofer Model.

The Model was agreed to by the Federal Cabinet and the Bund-Länder-Commission in 1973. In the same year the executive committee and central administration moved into joint accommodation at Leonrodstraße 54 in Munich.

The Fraunhofer program for the promotion of the consulting research for SMEs was established and gained ever more significance in subsequent years.

In 1977, the political ownership of the society was shared by the Ministries of Defense and Research.

By 1984, the Fraunhofer Society had 3,500 coworkers in 33 institutes and a research budget of 360 million Deutsche marks.

By 1988, defense research represented only about 10% of the entire expenditure of the Fraunhofer Society.

By 1989, the Fraunhofer Society had nearly 6400 coworkers in 37 institutes with a total budget of 700 million Deutsche marks.

In 1991 through the reunification of Germany, the Fraunhofer Society faced the challenge of integrating numerous research establishments of the former East Germany as branch offices of institutes already existing into the Fraunhofer Society.

In 1993 the Fraunhofer Society's total budget exceeded 1 billion Deutsche marks.

In 1994, the Society founded a US-based subsidiary, Fraunhofer USA, Inc., to extend the outreach of Fraunhofer's R&D network to American clients.

Its mission statement of 2000 commits the Fraunhofer Society to being a market and customer-oriented, national and internationally active sponsor organization for institutes of the applied research.

Between 2000 and 2001 the institutes and IT research centers of the GmD (Gesellschaft für Mathematik und Datenverarbeitung -- Society for Mathematics and Information technology) were integrated into the Fraunhofer Society at the initiative of the Federal Ministry for Education and Research.

The year 2000 marked a noteworthy success at Fraunhofer-Institut for Integrated Circuits (IIS): mp3, a lossy audio format which they developed, is the most widely adopted method for compressing and decompressing digital audio.

In 2002, ownership of the Heinrich-Hertz-Institut for Communications technology Berlin GmbH (HHI) which belonged to the Gottfried William Leibniz Society e. V. (GWL) was transferred to the Fraunhofer Society. With this integration the Fraunhofer Society budget exceeded €1 billion for the first time.

In 2003 the Fraunhofer Society headquarters moves to its own multistoried building in Munich.

The Fraunhofer Society develops and formulates a firm specific mission statement. The fundamental targets are summarized, and the desired "values and guidelines" of the society's "culture" are codified. Amongst these, the society committed itself to improving the opportunities for female employees and coworkers to identify themselves with the enterprise and to develop their own creative potential.

In 2004 the former "Fraunhofer Working Group for Electronic Media Technology" at the Fraunhofer-Institut for Integrated Circuits (IIS) gains the status of an independent institute. It becomes Fraunhofer-Institut for Digital Media Technology IDMT.

New alliances and topic groups help to strengthen the market operational readiness level of the institutes for Fraunhofer in certain jurisdictions.

In 2005 the new institutes, the Leipzig Fraunhofer-Institut for Cell Therapy and Immunology (IZI) and the FraunhoferCenter for Nano-electronic technologies CNT in Dresden, were founded.

In 2006 the Fraunhofer Institute for Intelligent Analysis and Information Systems (IAIS) was founded as a merger between the Institute for Autonomous Intelligent Systems (AIS) and the Institute for Media Communication (IMK)




Walther Gerlach (1949–1951)

Wilhelm Roelen (1951–1955)

Hermann von siemens (1955–1964)

Franz Kollmann (1964–1968)

Christian Otto Mohr (1968–1973)

Heinz Keller (1973–1982)

max syrbe (1982–1993)

Hans-Jurgen Warnecke (1993–2002)

Hans-Jorg Bullinger (2002 -)


Executive Board of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft

Executive Board 


President of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, Corporate Management: Prof. Dr. Hans-Jörg Bullinger

Senior Vice President Research Planning: Prof. Dr. Ulrich Buller

Senior Vice President Finance and Controlling, IT: Prof. (Univ. Stellenbosch) Dr. Alfred Gossner

Senior Vice President Personnel and Legal Affairs: Dr. Alexander Kurz

Prof. Dr.-Ing. habil. Prof. e. h. mult. Dr. h. c. mult. Hans-Jörg Bullinger


President of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, Corporate Policy

Student of mechanical engineering (specializing in production engineering), University of Stuttgart


Prof. Dr.-Ing. habil. Prof. e.h. mult. Dr. h.c. mult. Hans-Jörg Bullinger

President of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft

Headquarters of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft

Hansastraße 27C
80686 München, Germany 

Send an e-mail

 Phone +49 89 1205-1000 



By Vasil Sidorov on June 09, 2011 from Fraunhofer Society

Technopark QUELTA,

Nizhyn Laboratories of Scanning Devices



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