Shaping the future – Regional development as an opportunity

Regions, entire industries, politics and society are faced with the task of making the transition to a resource-conserving way of working and living. At the same time, this transformation process offers opportunities: a switch to climate-neutral technologies and production methods, future-oriented fields of work and more social participation. In recent years, researchers at Fraunhofer IMW have studied several regional, national and international structural change processes and innovation systems.

Research division supports regional transformation

Regional economies can be described along so-called "development paths" that run through certain industries, research topics, technologies or narratives. Selfreinforcing effects mean that citizens, entrepreneurs or politicians in a region tend to follow these development paths unconsciously. In the best case, this leads to the specialization of a region in certain industries, and thus to the emergence of local clusters. In the worst case, past successes become obstacles for the future.

If a development path is followed for too long, even though it no longer offers regional growth – as happened, for example, in the Ruhr region in the 1960s and 1970s – new regional development paths are urgently needed. The researchers of the „Regional Development and Innovation Policy“ division, newly founded in 2021, support this path development. The geographers, computer scientists and economists support the regional, national and international transformation of regions, organizations, innovation and knowledge networks with evaluations, impact measurements and scientific monitoring. In recent years, the research team has already investigated several regional, national and international processes of regional development and derived options for action for the future.

Overview of selected research projects on regional development

Recommendations for action regarding key technologies in eastern Germany

The final report examines key technologies in eastern Germany.

Point-of-Care Diagnostics Alliance DIANA

The potential analysis takes a look at the possible applications of point-of-care diagnostics for Central Saxony and Thuringia.

Innovation Study 2021. Lighthouses in the Rhenish Mining Area

This study is one of two publications that Fraunhofer IMW scientists have prepared to ensure successful structural change in the Rhenish mining region.

Research report on structural change for the "Coal Committee"

The research team reviewed relevant international experiences concerning structural change for the Coal Committee "Growth, Structural Change and Employment".

Innovation studies support regional development of the Rhenish Mining Area

Establish lighthouse projects in a targeted manner, further strengthen the transfer of knowledge and technology between regional industry and research, and win over all stakeholders in the Rhenish Mining District for a common mission statement and uncomplicated support for regional innovation projects in companies: These are the major recommendations for action presented in the innovation study for the Zukunftsagentur Rheinisches Revier. The study is one of two publications that Fraunhofer IMW researchers produced in 2021 for a successful regional development of the Rhenish Mining Area.

The phase-out of lignite-based power generation is a major structural challenge for the Rhenish lignite mining region in the triangle formed by the cities of Aachen, Mönchengladbach and Bonn. The idea is that in the pits, that are currently occupied by excavators, future lakes, intelligent infrastructures and new industries will be created. Although the region is home to excellent research and scientific institutions, regional economic growth has so far been below the state and national averages. The coal phase-out also threatens to result in a loss of high-paying jobs and value creation in the region.

AIR model analyzes three dimensions of the regional innovation system

By analyzing the regional research landscape, the Leipzig researchers identified the fields of innovation with the greatest potential for the region's future. They also determined the strengths and weaknesses of the innovation system and derived recommendations for action to transform the mining area. For their analysis, the team used the so-called "AIR model" developed in-house. The model enables the researchers to relate three dimensions of an innovation system, namely the existing actors (A), their interactions (I) and the political-structural framework conditions; in German: Rahmenbedingungen (R). [...]

© Klement 2018, Dornbusch et al. 2021
The Fraunhofer IMW AIR model at a glance: You can feed quantitative and qualitative data into the model, for example publication data, patent data, the characteristics of funded innovation projects, associated cooperation patterns and resonance indicators, but also the results of online surveys or expert interviews.
© Günter Hentschel, flickr, Creative Commons Lizenz CC BY-ND 2.0
In its study results, the research team names ten clearly outlined, empirically proven fields of innovation for the Rhenish Mining Area: alternative drive technologies, aviation, bioeconomy, digital medicine, energy system of the future, catalysis, nanoelectronics, new materials and substances, quantum and supercomputing, future-proof industry.

Institute aims to advance strategies for hydrogen economy

Researchers of Fraunhofer IMW support companies, networks and regions in their conversion to the hydrogen economy. At a symposium held by Fraunhofer IMW in October 2022 with the Leipzig-based company HeiterBlick GmbH, the Leipzig Group and HYPOS e. V., the interdisciplinary research team provided an insight into the current state of research. Fraunhofer IMW is a member of the hydrogen network HYPOS and Fraunhofer Hydrogen Network.

Symposium "How to H2 – Hydrogen economy on the spot"

Jörn Tobaben, HYPOS Board of Directors, Managing Director Metropolregion Mitteldeutschland

"Hydrogen is economic power."

Samuel Kermelk, Director of Heiterblick GmbH

"An H2-streetcar for expanding public transport"

Ulf Middelberg, Director L-Gruppe

"Leipziger H2 concepts as a contribution to Eastern Germany"

Anna Schwert, Project Manager Green Gases, MITNETZ Gas

"H2-infra –from hydrogen research and development into practice"

Christian Perplies, Senior Sales & Business Development Manager FEST GmbH

"Conceptual design of integrated hydrogen production and distribution facilities"

Miriam Brandes, Senior Political and Regulatory Affairs Officer, EEX

"Operation and development of hydrogen trading markets"

Hydrogen Hub Leipzig: Studies investigate potential for the city and central Germany

The city of Leipzig sees itself as a pioneer for ambitious climate protection. The energy-intensive industries in the region, the central German hydrogen network, the great potential for sector coupling, and also the research facilities in Leipzig provide the best prerequisites for a further expansion of the hydrogen economy in the region. Furthermore, central Germany is already one of the largest hydrogen consumers in Germany.

As part of the hydrogen strategies of the city of Leipzig and the municipal Leipziger Gruppe, a Fraunhofer research team analyzed the potential of green hydrogen for the region with two studies in 2021 in order to create additional scientific foundations for the implementation of the next steps.

Study serves as technical basis for the city of Leipzig

The Leipzig City Council had already decided in October 2020 to develop the city of Leipzig into a hydrogen city – and initiated a participatory process involving businesses, science, associations, politics and citizens. The researchers accompanied this process with a short study. They provided an overview of hydrogen strategies at the EU, federal and state levels, examined the potential for the city of Leipzig and the region of central Germany, and recommended ad hoc measures for the city and a structured participation process.


The potential of green gases for the regional development region central Germany

As low-emission and partly emission-free energy sources, "green gases" could play an important role in energy supply in the future. They are generally transported and distributed via the nationwide gas infrastructure – and represent an alternative to fossil fuels such as natural gas. The potential to produce and use "green gases" in the central German region is examined in a study under the same name, which a research team from Fraunhofer IMW and its project partners prepared for the "Innovation Region Central Germany".

In the "Innovation Region Central Germany", the counties and independent cities in Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia affected by the coal phase-out have joined forces to develop ideas, concepts, and projects for the future development of the region together and with other partners. The existing industrial structures around the Leuna-Buna-Bitterfeld chemical triangle are an anchor for cooperation and the development of new value chains. In the future, "green gases" could be produced there, i. e. hydrogen, synthetic gases from renewable electricity or gases from biogenic sources, especially biogas and biomethane.

"CEM-IOM": Tool for impact assessment of regional investment projects

In the study, the interactive input-output model "CEM-IOM" developed by a Fraunhofer IMW research team quantifies the economic and social impact of potential investment projects for the participating counties and independent cities for the years 2030, 2040 and 2045.


Platform-based business models for the hydrogen economy

Sponsored by politics, companies are increasingly investing in green hydrogen. But it is only by thinking along the lines of the digital world and the (platform-based) utilization of data across the entire value chain of the hydrogen economy, that the currently high investments in green hydrogen technologies will pay off.

At least, this is what experience from other sectors of the economy shows, where value creation shares are increasingly shifting from the physical to the digital world and digital business models are becoming more and more important. Researchers at Fraunhofer IMW have now investigated data- and platform-based business models for the hydrogen economy for the first time as part of the “EndaSpace PLATON” project. In their final report, the Leipzig researchers outline, among other things, seven future scenarios of what the hybrid value creation of green hydrogen could look like in 2030.



Joint Fraunhofer project facilitates the development of a future hydrogen economy in Germany

In the joint project H2 D researchers from more than twenty Fraunhofer institutes are working together to promote the development of a hydrogen economy in Germany. The researchers are investigating, for example, the production of green hydrogen by electrolysis or safe infrastructures. The technological steps in the project are accompanied by recommendations for political action and a potentiality atlas, which serves as a key result of the project and aims to embed the hydrogen economy in the energy system as a whole.


Interview with Head of Division Dr. Daniela Pufky-Heinrich, contact person for hydrogen projects at Fraunhofer IMW / 17.5.2022

"The green hydrogen economy is exemplary for the changing value networks. Thus, scientific methods and expertise, e. g. in the area of material and energy network modeling, data and platform economics, or acceptance research, are being developed specifically to meet the needs of the stakeholders in the green hydrogen industry."

International research projects on sustainable development at eye level

Joint project CHARMS develops sustainable solutions for historic building structures in Thailand

Project analyzes scrap bonus for Thailand

Researchers at Fraunhofer IMW are currently working with Thai partners to investigate how Thailand can profit from stainless steel recycling.

Joint project CHARMS develops sustainable solutions for historic building structures in Thailand

In Southeast Asia, too, lifestyles are changing, people are increasingly working from home as a result of COVID-19, and the demands on urban structures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are increasing. Thailand‘s historic urban neighborhoods and residential buildings need resilient utilization concepts developed in cooperation with residents and city administrations. This is where the CHARMS research project comes in, bringing together researchers from Germany and Thailand with local governments and civil society in the Thai region of Chiang Mai. A research team from Fraunhofer IMW is leading the large-scale transdisciplinary project.

The project team‘s surveys show that the high

energy costs, poor air quality and often inadequate thermal comfort of historic wooden houses affect young residents in particular. Their demands differ from those of their parents. At the same time, an altered microclimate and high air pollution severely limit the functionality of traditional indirect cooling systems. To ensure acceptable indoor comfort, many residential buildings are equipped with active, technical solutions such as air conditioning systems. Higher energy consumption and urban heat islands are the result.

Technical and social innovations

In order to develop locally adapted, sustainable utilization concepts for these historic buildings and neighborhoods, the researchers in the project are applying research methods from various academic disciplines. The aim is to create technical and social innovations that are interrelated, improve indoor comfort for residents, and preserve the architectural heritage and cultural identity – preservation through use.


Cooperation partner Latin America: Potential for Germany‘s international research and innovation cooperation

Germany benefits from open markets, international knowledge exchange and cooperation in research, development and innovation. Global challenges such as climate change can only be solved in partnership with other countries and regions. The German government therefore promotes international cooperation not only within Europe, but with many countries around the world. Agreements on scientific and technological cooperation with Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Mexico, for example, were concluded as early as the 1960s. Cooperation with other partner countries in the region is to be established and expanded.

In order to identify suitable, joint fields of innovation and to strategically develop funding offers for joint research and innovation projects, a research team from the Technopolis Group and Fraunhofer IMW examined the status quo of German-Latin American cooperation and current developments for the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.


Scrap bonus made tangible: Recommendations for action for a fair steel market

Those who use scrap in steel production conserve natural resources and reduce CO2 emissions. Steel scrap recycling also leads to welfare gains: Today‘s generations, but also future generations, benefit from cost savings through avoided environmental pollution. The Bundesvereinigung Deutscher Stahlrecycling- und Entsorgungsunternehmen e. V. (BDSV - German Association of Steel Recycling and Waste Management Companies) is therefore promoting the use of the so-called "scrap bonus" to quantify these welfare gains in monetary terms. A study by Fraunhofer IMW shows which incentives the European Commission can use to reward and promote climate-friendly steel production.

In 2018, around 94 million tons of scrap were processed into recycled steel in Europe. This saved approximately 157 million tons of CO2. This is equivalent to the annual emissions of all car traffic in France, England and the UK. However, this positive effect is not reflected in the price mechanisms of the the European steel market.

European regulatory mechanisms

The European Emissions Trading Scheme (EU-ETS) is one of the European Union‘s most important instruments for achieving the planned climate neutrality. Through the emissions trading system, companies must purchase emission allowances for the greenhouse gases they release. Since the number of these emission rights is capped, the scheme ensures that an emissions ceiling is adhered to. The planned Carbon Boundary Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) is intended to prevent so-called "carbon leakage" and ensure fair competition with imported products.n.


Presentation by Prof. Dr. Frank Pothen at the digital BDSV Annual Conference 2021: Scrap Bonus Concrete – Gaps in the EU-ETS and recommendations for action (in German)