The Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft is already the largest applied research organization in Europe and a model for similar organizations across the world. Its ability to encourage and expedite the transfer of new technology from the laboratory to the economy has just gotten stronger. In late February, the European Commission announced that the European Investment Fund (EIF) and the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft would jointly launch a EUR 60 million fund to help spin-offs commercialize the intellectual property generated at the 72 Fraunhofer institutes spread across Germany. It is the first time that the EIF is promoting the transfer of technology from a public research body in Germany.
Fraunhofer Technologie Transfer Fonds GmbH, the new company established for this purpose, will identify and finance spin-offs and licensing models from Fraunhofer institutes at an early stage of the innovation process, thereby creating added incentives for the research community to bring its findings on the market. The overall goal is to help bridge the funding gap for early commercialization phases of high-tech startups in Germany and Europe that results from private investors’ limited appetite for investing in startups in capital-intensive sectors such as advanced materials or manufacturing digitalization.
The fund is supported by the Commission’s InnovFin program for innovative small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) and the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), the heart of the Investment Plan for Europe (also known as the “Juncker Plan”). In addition, the fund will benefit from the ERP-EIF Facility, a joint initiative of the German Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) and the EIF to support the financing of SMEs and startups in Germany.