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Making an Effective Contribution to Structural Change

Jülich, 24 May 2019 – With its more than 6,000 employees, Forschungszentrum Jülich intends to contribute its scientific excellence and expertise to achieve successful structural change in the Rhineland.

Together with its partners at the German Federal Government and the state government of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), Forschungszentrum Jülich has therefore submitted a number of specific projects for consideration; these have now been included in the concrete proposals adopted by the Commission on Growth, Structural Change and Employment for implementing structural policy recommendations. The NRW state government has informed the German Bundestag about the content of the proposals and stressed the importance of science and innovation for successful structural change.

Prof. Wolfgang MarquardtProf. Dr.-Ing. Wolfgang Marquardt
Copyright: Forschungszentrum Jülich / Ralf-Uwe Limbach

Jülich’s projects are tied to its research priorities of information, energy, and bioeconomy. Their aim is to establish new value chains for information technology, bioeconomy, and energy technology in the region on the basis of research. The projects will be developed and implemented in close cooperation with regional partners from enterprise, science, and civil society. “We are very conscious of our responsibility to our region,” says Prof. Wolfgang Marquardt, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Forschungszentrum Jülich. “This is not the ordinary business of research. Here at Jülich, we believe we have a responsibility to do everything in our power to support our region in facing the immense challenges posed by structural change. With our expertise, we forge a way for knowledge-based innovation to help shape this change to the best of our ability.”

Forschungszentrum Jülich proposes to participate in the planned immediate action programme for regions affected by structural change with the following three projects:

1) Neuroscience-inspired artificial intelligence technologies

Forschungszentrum Jülich believes that the development of innovative neuroscience-inspired computer technologies holds great potential for the Rhineland. Together with scientists from RWTH Aachen University, Jülich researchers are already working on novel materials and electronic components, learning from the finest computer known to man: the human brain. An improved understanding of the underlying principles and mechanisms of the biological brain will lay the foundation for the development of neuromorphic computers based on these new materials and components, thus spurring advances in artificial intelligence (AI). Material and component technology companies from the region are involved in the project and will benefit from excellent potential for long-term expansion. The project will also encourage high-tech companies and SMEs to move to the Rhineland.

2) Model bioeconomy district in the Rhineland

The second project aims to transform the Rhineland from a region with a particularly strong dependence on fossil fuels to a future-oriented region focused on bio-based value creation. The region’s strengths in the areas of science and industry offer a strong starting point for such an endeavour. Highly productive agriculture, which plays a crucial role in landscape and land-use development within structural change, will be future-proofed with new methods; traditional utilization pathways (such as in the food industry) will be made more innovative; and new commercialization avenues for materials and chemicals will be advanced in order to open up new markets. Simultaneously, material life cycles will start and finish regionally to facilitate a sustainable closed-loop economy, and new business models will be established in the region by fostering meaningful connections between industry and research. Cooperation will be promoted between partners from science, industry, agriculture, local authorities, and civil society to create a real-life laboratory for a sustainable and innovative model bioeconomy district (“BioökonomieREVIER”) in the Rhineland.

3) Incubator for sustainable renewable value chains (iNEW)

The development of sustainable production methods based on power-to-X technologies (P2X) is a promising approach for reducing CO2 emissions in industrial processes. This approach makes it possible to use CO2 as a raw material and, on this basis, to develop future-oriented value chains. To accelerate the technology transfer and innovation process for P2X concepts, the project proposes to establish an open innovation platform (iNEW). This will offer the opportunity to test new P2X technologies at an early stage under realistic operating conditions, and thus to obtain insights into performance and degradation mechanisms that can be exploited directly. Regional companies and industrial partners will be involved in developing these technologies from the ground up. The future goal is to develop the innovation platform further to create a real-life laboratory (LiLaC).

A further project proposes to extend the unique research infrastructure for high-resolution electron microscopy at Jülich’s Ernst Ruska-Centre. This step would not only strengthen the entire Rhineland as a research region, but would also offer companies who work with innovative materials and technologies a unique development opportunity and, consequently, bright prospects in the Rhineland. Expanding the infrastructure will go hand in hand with the establishment of innovation labs, which will see industrial partners participating in research areas such as the transformation of the German energy sector.

In addition, Forschungszentrum Jülich intends to establish a Cognitive Computing Centre (CCC) which will give partners from industry and science access to state-of-the-art data analysis and artificial intelligence techniques, with the aim of converting their enormous volumes of data into concrete, useful knowledge. This will allow regional partners to benefit from Jülich’s outstanding technological and methodological expertise in the context of the Rhineland science region. CCC will build upon Jülich’s cooperation with RWTH Aachen University in the field of simulation and data sciences.

Forschungszentrum Jülich wants to play a part in developing the Rhineland into a model region for a sustainable hydrogen economy that is compatible with existing infrastructure. Jülich aims to contribute its expertise in the area of energy storage and conversion, focusing on hydrogen as an energy carrier, by participating in several regional infrastructure projects with partners from science and industry. LOHC systems, a promising technology for storing and transporting hydrogen which was developed by Jülich researchers, will also play a key role. This technology is based on bonding hydrogen to an easily transported substance, which facilitates utilization.

Forschungszentrum Jülich firmly believes that in order to make structural change a reality, science, industry, and civil society must work together in close cooperation. Achieving this requires dedicated spaces for dialogue and transfer, which is why Forschungszentrum Jülich has put forward a proposal for a transfer and conference centre located here in Jülich.

The above projects represent initial ideas for how Forschungszentrum Jülich can contribute to achieving structural change. In addition to these, Jülich researchers are working with colleagues from RWTH Aachen University and other regional partners on a number of further projects to create new value chains in the Rhineland.

Previous articles on structural change

In an interview published on 16 May 2019, plant researcher Prof. Ulrich Schurr, director at IBG-2, speaks about the role that the bioeconomy can play in structural change.

Interview with Prof. Ulrich Schurr on Jülich’s website

In an article for the Jülich Blogs portal published on 10 April 2019, Prof. Wolfgang Marquardt, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Forschungszentrum Jülich, reflects on the role that science must play to ensure successful structural change in the Rhineland.

Article on structural change by Prof. Wolfgang Marquardt in the Jülich Blogs portal (in German)