A top German R&D institute is planning to launch into the UK contract research and project management market in May, in a move that will heighten European rivalry for the exploitation of British technology.
The Stuttgart-based Fraunhofer Technology Development Group (TEG) is making its first UK appearance at a trade show in Birmingham in May, and is seeking British industrial partners for which it can provide contract and consultancy engineering and development services.
To date, most TEG projects have come from within Germany, though the move into the UK follows similar attempts in the US and the Far East.
‘Fraunhofer must internationalise,’ said TEG deputy director Harald Egner, who admitted that the decision to target the UK market had sparked debate within the group. ‘But if we get one or two projects started as a result of our appearance in the UK in May, no one will question whether that decision was right or wrong,’ he said.
TEG does not have a UK office, but would consider opening one if the volume of business justified it, Egner said.
TEG is the development specialist within the Fraunhofer Group, a non-profit making organisation with 47 research institutes in Germany. It employs 9,000 people, of which half are scientists and engineers. TEG’s development work is 40% funded by the German government, which matches industrial investment in research at the group on a deutschmark-for-deutschmark basis. In 1998, this backing amounted to about DM440m (£155m).
TEG customers include Mannesmann, the Deutsche Bahn, Lufthansa and ABB, as well as numerous smaller companies.
The UK Government has become increasingly interested in the transfer of leading-edge research into commercial applications, and has studied the effectiveness of the Fraunhofer organisation which has been established in Germany for 50 years.
‘In comparison, the mechanisms for technology transfer in Britain look piecemeal and fragmented,’ said one industry observer who has made a close study of the Fraunhofer system.
TEG will be at the Control and Instrumentation Show at the Birmingham NEC from 11 13 May.