Research field "Key Technologies"

Research field coordinator: Prof. Wolfgang Marquardt, Forschungszentrum Jülich

Participating Helmholtz Centres

  • Forschungszentrum Jülich (FZJ)
  • Helmholtz Zentrum Geesthacht Centre for Materials and Coastal Research (HZG)
  • Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)

Programmes: From 2015, the research field will be dividing its activities between the following nine programmes:

  • Supercomputing and Big Data
  • Future Information Technology – Fundamentals, Novel Concepts and Energy Efficiency (joint programme with the Energy research field)
  • Science and Technology of Nanosystems
  • Advanced Engineering Materials
  • BioSoft – Fundamentals for Future Technologies in the Fields of Soft Matter and Life Sciences
  • BioInterfaces in Technology and Medicine
  • Decoding the Human Brain
  • Key Technologies for the Bioeconomy
  • Technology, Innovation and Society (joint programme with the Energy research field)

Scientific challenges

Scientists in the Key Technologies research field investigate and develop generic technologies in order to create a range of instruments that, in line with the new high-tech strategy of the German government and other federal programmes relevant to the Helmholtz Association, contribute to meeting the most pressing challenges of the future with regard to ensuring prosperity and quality of life. These instruments should contribute to basic research and have flexible applications.

By integrating new interdisciplinary structures, such as the linking of technology and medicine, biology and physics, simulation and big data, and supercomputing and brain research, it will in future be possible to expand the extremely successful development of future-oriented technologies in medicine and other life sciences. The nine programmes in the Key Technologies research field are based on multidisciplinary collaboration, take a non-application-specific approach and – through their high level of innovation – help ensure Germany remains an important centre of commerce and industry.

Its state-of-the-art research facilities (large-scale facilities and technological resources) are made available to a broad international community of scientists from both within and outside the Helmholtz Association and are continuously developed further through the association’s own research.

Evaluator statements and recommendations for the Key Technologies research field as a whole

The evaluators rated the scientific quality of all programmes in the Key Technologies research field as excellent by both national and international standards, and pointed to their particular strategic relevance for science, society, and the economy. The advice and recommendations of the evaluator teams are of great value for the future development of the programmes. The evaluators issued several overarching statements and recommendations, including the following:

Technology transfer: Although the programmes in the Key Technologies research field have made excellent scientific achievements, they have yet to fully exploit the potential for transferring research results to partners in industry. The evaluators therefore recommended developing a strategy for the upcoming programme period that promotes the exchange of scientific knowledge and the development of innovations with partners from industry.

Talent management: The evaluators recommended that the research field take further efforts to increase enthusiasm for the programmes’ content among female scientists and leading international researchers.

Funding recommendations for the Helmholtz Senate

The Key Technologies research field is to receive funding totalling €260 million in 2015. An annual increase of three percent is planned during the five-year funding period. IIn addition to bolstering the individual programmes, this will go towards enhancing the Berlin-Brandenburg Center for Regenerative Therapies – a joint translational centre at the Teltow location of the Helmholtz Zentrum – Geesthacht Centre for Materials and Coastal Research and the Charité university hospital in Berlin.  

Key priorities and evaluators’ assessments of the individual programmes within the research field


Supercomputing and Big Data

Lead evaluator: Prof. Thom H. Dunning, Jr., University of Washington, USA

Two Helmholtz Centres – Forschungszentrum Jülich and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology – contribute to the Supercomputing and Big Data programme. The primary aim of the programme is to provide – within national and EU frameworks – the scientific community in Germany and Europe with the instruments and facilities they need to conduct research into supercomputing and to perform large-scale database management and analysis. Both supercomputing and the management and analysis of vast quantities of data (big data) have evolved into strategically important technologies for theoretical and experimental research and for optimising industrial products and production. The ever-growing complexity of the systems and processes under investigation by science and technology is reflected in the ever-increasing requirements placed on the systems and methods used in such research.  

The team of evaluators were impressed with the excellence and coherence of the programme, which they say has achieved great international renown. In their opinion, the programme’s success is due to the excellent way it links research and development work with the requirements-based simulation laboratories and computer architectures. They recommend developing an overarching strategy in order to promote the relatively young field of big data and to bring together Helmholtz-wide activities in this area.  

Contact: Programme spokesperson: Prof. Thomas Lippert, Forschungszentrum Jülich; Press officer: Anne Rother, +49 2461 61-4661, a.rother(at)fz-juelich.de


Future Information Technology – Fundamentals, Novel Concepts and Energy Efficiency

Lead evaluator: Prof. A. Paul Alivisatos, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, USA

This collaborative programme that brings together the research fields Key Technologies and Energy is run by Forschungszentrum Jülich and Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin. The amount of energy being consumed by information and communication technologies has risen significantly in recent years. Thus the research goal is to increase the processing power, data storage density and data transfer rates of information technologies, while at the same time drastically reducing the amount of electricity needed by these technologies. To this end, the programme pursues a dual strategy. Firstly, scientists research radically new approaches to solid-state technologies and explore novel concepts aimed at markedly increasing the energy efficiency of future information and communication technologies (ICT) while reducing their energy consumption. Secondly, the programme selectively addresses material properties and their effects on energy production, conversion and storage. The team of evaluators confirmed that the scientific quality of the programme was excellent, and in parts even outstanding. They also pointed out the programme’s high strategic relevance for society and the economy. In addition, the evaluators said that parts of the programme were global leaders in the field, and that the study of energy-efficient information technologies is a highly timely topic. They recommended intensifying the theoretical efforts within the programme and more fully exploiting the existing synergies between the programme’s two topics so as to develop the programme further.

Contact: Programme spokesperson: Prof. Rainer Waser, Forschungszentrum Jülich; Press officer: Anne Rother, +49 2461 61-4661, a.rother(at)fz-juelich.de  

 

Science and Technology of Nanosystems (STN)

Lead evaluator: Prof. Jean-Philippe Bourgoin, French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), France

The Karlsruhe Institute of Technology is involved in implementing this programme, and the research infrastructure of the Karlsruhe Nano Micro Facility (KNMF) is associated with the programme. The aim of the programme is to investigate and develop nanosystems with unique functions. The participating scientists pursue a vision of designing and controlling materials in a targeted way – at atomic and molecular dimensions, at nano and micro-scale, and at macro-scale. Basic research into condensed matter enables the development of fundamental concepts for nanotechnology. The scientists explore topics such as printed materials, nanocatalysis and teratronics through theoretical and experimental basic research and the development of components and complete systems. Nanofabrication with atomic precision is an interdisciplinary approach that brings together modelling, chemical synthesis and process technology so as to ensure a sufficient basis for producing materials for specific applications.

The team of evaluators judged the programme’s scientific quality as excellent. They also viewed its integration with the Key Technologies research field and the Helmholtz mission as outstanding. To further strengthen the programme, the evaluators recommended intensifying collaboration with other programmes in the research field and beyond. In their opinion, the programme’s close links with the KNMF enable synergies to be exploited particularly well and put KIT in a position to become a world leader in nanotechnology research.

Contact: Programme spokesperson: Prof. Horst Hahn, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology; Press officer: Monika Landgraf, +49 721 608-47414, monika.landgraf(at)kit.edu   

 

Advanced Engineering Materials (AEM)

Lead evaluator: Prof. Matthias Kleiner, Leibniz Association, Germany

The AEM programme is organised by the Helmholtz Zentrum – Geesthacht Centre for Materials and Coastal Research. The researchers working on the programme tackle challenges related to the development of materials and substances and the associated process technologies required for the creation of lightweight construction components that possess not only outstanding mechanical properties but also functional properties. To achieve these aims, continuous research along the entire spectrum of material development is necessary – from basic research to modelling and characterisation to scaling to sizes relevant for applications in process technologies.

The team of evaluators were convinced of the programme’s excellent scientific quality according to national and international standards and of its high strategic relevance. In their opinion, the programme has a very high level of productivity and can be expected to contribute significantly to finding solutions for societal challenges. To maintain and enhance the programme’s scientific quality over the long term, the evaluators advised the establishment of a foresight process with the purpose of identifying and addressing important future research directions in new materials and/or combinations of materials. They also recommended promoting the integration of higher-risk research topics

Contact: Programme spokesperson: Prof. Norbert Huber, Helmholtz Zentrum Geesthacht Centre for Materials and Coastal Research; Press officer: Torsten Fischer, +49 4152 87-1677, torsten.fischer(at)hzg.de  

 

BioSoft – Fundamentals for Future Technologies in the Fields of Soft Matter and Life Sciences

Lead evaluator: Prof. Brigitte Voit, Leibniz Institute for Polymer Research Dresden (IPF), Germany

The aim of this programme, which Forschungszentrum Jülich is contributing to, is the fabrication of functional nanostructured materials and the development of knowledge-based strategies for disease therapy. Scientists from different disciplines – soft matter physics, structural biology and cell biology – work together in order to approach the programme’s goal from three directions. While the research in soft matter physics leads to simplified (biomimetic) model systems and testing methods and instruments that are vital for quantitatively understanding complex synthetic and biomacromolecular systems, the structural biological and molecular biophysics research provides deep insights into the structure and dynamics of proteins. Cell biophysics, on the other hand, investigates the functional interaction of many types of components at the cellular level in order to understand the principles by which living cells perceive and process physical signals.  

The team of evaluators highlighted the programme’s scientific quality and strategic relevance. They judged its new topic structure as a distinctly positive development compared to the previous funding period, and assessed the collaboration between the programme’s individual topics and the participating institutes as significantly improved. The evaluators recommended developing a strategy for bringing together Helmholtz-wide activities relating to soft matter.

Contact: Programme spokesperson: Prof. Gerhard Gompper, Forschungszentrum Jülich; Press officer: Anne Rother, +49 2461 61-4661, a.rother(at)fz-juelich.de  

 

BioInterfaces in Technology and Medicine

Lead evaluator: Prof. Ann-Christine Albertsson, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden  

The Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and the Helmholtz Zentrum – Geesthacht Centre for Materials and Coastal Research contribute to this newly structured transdisciplinary programme. Its aim is to develop methods for controlling living systems, and it brings together biologists, chemists, physicists, engineers, IT specialists, material scientists and doctors in the pursuit of this goal. Molecular and cellular interfaces of living systems are logical starting points for devising appropriate strategies for influencing cell behaviour. The programme will therefore develop new concepts for innovative materials and technologies capable of accurately controlling cell behaviour through the use of the these control points. This encompasses the comprehensive analysis of cell cultures, biofilms, animal models and patient samples. The results should enable the rational design of multifunctional synthetic molecules that are able to manipulate cells in bioreactors or organisms. In addition, the program plans to produce tailored polymer surfaces for the control of biofilms and functionalised polymers for use in regenerative therapies.

The team of evaluators was impressed with the scientific issues addressed by the programme as well as by its excellent quality. They particularly praised the way in which the complementary expertise of HZG and KIT were pooled in the restructuring of this programme and believe efforts in this direction should be promoted further. The evaluators therefore recommended implementing suitable measures for strengthening scientific exchange between disciplines, programme topics and locations, and cooperation between research fields.

Contact: Programme spokesperson: Prof. Christof Wöll, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology; Press officer: Monika Landgraf, +49 721 608-47414, monika.landgraf(at)kit.edu  

 

Decoding the Human Brain

Lead evaluator: Prof. Marcus E. Raichle, Washington University School of Medicine, USA

Decoding the Human Brain is one of the two new programmes in the Key Technologies research field. Forschungszentrum Jülich contributes to this programme. The goal of the participating scientists is to develop a realistic three-dimensional model of the human brain that encompasses functional and structural brain organisation on different temporal and spatial scales. Gaining a thorough understanding of how the brain is organised is not only of great importance for fundamental science and our conception of humankind, but is also crucial for comprehending disease processes and for developing diagnoses and cures for these. The programme therefore investigates the neural mechanisms underlying mental processes and behaviour over different temporal and spatial scales – on the genetic, molecular, cellular, mesoscopic and network levels. In addition to empirical investigation, the programme also involves modelling, theory and simulation.

The team of evaluators commended the establishment of this ambitious programme, stating that the scientific quality of the programme was excellent, and in parts even outstanding. The evaluators believe that the programme has the potential to set new standards in neuroscience. They recommend continuing to promote scientific exchange between the individual programme topics and disciplines by carrying out integrated projects.

They also favourably judged the programme’s close collaboration with the Supercomputing and Big Data programme, and are of the opinion that its strategy should be further developed in conjunction with that programme.

Contact: Programme spokesperson: Prof. Katrin Amunts, Forschungszentrum Jülich; Press officer: Anne Rother, +49 2461 61-4661, a.rother(at)fz-juelich.de  

 

Key Technologies for the Bioeconomy

Lead evaluator: Prof. Wiltrud Treffenfeldt, Dow Europe GmbH, Switzerland

Key Technologies for the Bioeconomy is one of the two new programmes in the Key Technologies research field to which Forschungszentrum Jülich is contributing. The growing global population, changing eating habits, the rising demand for sustainably produced bio-based raw materials, and increasing global bioenergy needs are examples of major societal challenges for which sustainable bioeconomy aims to find solutions. The programme’s two areas of investigation – biotechnology and plant research – focus primarily on optimising biological resources within the framework of a comprehensive sustainable bioeconomy concept. The research being conducted in industrial biotechnology focuses on the bio-based production of chemicals, pharmaceuticals and proteins using microbial and enzymatic processes. The research in plant sciences contributes to the improvement of plant biomass and to the production of plant-based chemicals and materials.

The team of evaluators confirmed that the scientific quality of the programme was excellent, and in parts even outstanding. They were greatly impressed with the approaches taken by the programme, with the participating scientists’ enthusiasm and their achievements so far, and with the programme’s management. The evaluators expect the programme to contribute significantly to progress in bioeconomy research. They recommend promoting the programme’s visibility more strongly and communicating the anticipated benefits of the bioeconomy research more clearly so as to strengthen both internal and external acceptance of the programme.

Contact: Programme spokesperson: Prof. Ulrich Schurr, Forschungszentrum Jülich; Press officer: Anne Rother, +49 2461 61-4661, a.rother(at)fz-juelich.de


Technology, Innovation and Society

Lead evaluator: Prof. Harald Rohracher, Linköping University, Sweden

This collaborative programme, which brings together the research fields Key Technologies and Energy, addresses the non-technological aspects of the innovation process by examining the links between technological development and related changes in economic and environmental factors, political contexts and ethical questions. The programme combines the competencies of the research fields Energy and Key Technologies for the purpose of conducting interdisciplinary research in the areas of system analysis, technology assessment, sustainability research, and risk and innovation research. Scientists participating in the programme apply technology assessment approaches to new technological fields, provide advice for policymakers, and develop integral strategies for the optimum utilisation of renewable energies within the scope of the associated risks and conflicts.

The individual topics address highly relevant scientific issues; and tackling these major challenges, as well as assessing their societal impact, is a fundamental part of the Helmholtz Association’s mission. The evaluators confirmed the programme’s high scientific quality, while also proposing strategies for continuous further development. In particular, they criticised the structural integration of the research topics within the programme and the research field, the portfolio of selected research approaches, and the scientific impact. The evaluators thus recommended improving the integration of the topics within the programme and the research field, strategically refining the portfolio of selected research approaches, and tapping into new conceptual and methodological fields in the modelling analysis.

Kontakt: Programmsprecher: Prof. Dr. Armin Grunwald, Karlsruher Institut für Technologie; Pressestelle: Monika Landgraf, Telefon: 0721 / 608-47414, monika.landgraf (at) kit.edu

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Contact

  • Photo of Christian Beilmann
    • Dr. Christian Beilmann
    • Chief Research Manager, Research Field Key Technologies
      Helmholtz Association