NRW Economics Minister Neubaur visits Fraunhofer Institute in Lemgo

Lemgo /

(Lemgo) The signs for manufacturing companies in the SME sector are pointing to crisis mode: sustainable resource and energy efficiency as well as ideas to combat the shortage of skilled workers are the order of the day. Here, impulses and innovations also come from science. Mona Neubaur, Minister for Economic Affairs, Industry, Climate Protection and Energy of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia, was convinced during a visit to Lemgo that this transfer works excellently in East Westphalia-Lippe, for example with the SmartFactoryOWL.

First visit of the minister to the Innovation Campus Lemgo

Rising energy prices, strained supply chains and a struggle for skilled workers are currently also posing major challenges for medium-sized companies in North Rhine-Westphalia and throughout Germany. The regions need performance and transfer centers that can provide resilience and secure locations for SMEs with new developments and the right offerings and solutions. And they also need impetus and advocates from the political arena. 

Mona Neubaur, Minister for Economic Affairs, Industry, Climate Protection and Energy since 2022, wanted to see for herself on January 12 how and how well such places bring science and business together. In the old Hanseatic and university town of Lemgo, she visited representatives of Bielefeld University and Fraunhofer IOSB-INA and found out how networking and transfer work in concrete terms.

Solutions for more resource efficiency that work

For example, the minister had the sustainable plastic production of eco-plastic cups, which takes place at SmartFactoryOWL, presented to her: A cooperative of ten mainly medium-sized partners with Fraunhofer demonstrates how reusable cups are produced without mineral oil and recycled naturally. 

Dr. Christoph Lakemeyer from the company Hadi-Plast explains, "Projects like the CUNA production here in Lemgo are something very special and valuable for medium-sized businesses. Specialists come together here, combine know-how and realize ideas that are fit for the future." 

Another stop on the visit: the "Smart Warehouse" research demonstrator. Here, the researchers showed how a so-called eco-mode enables intelligent control of a logistics process with the help of software algorithms and thus enables energy savings in the double-digit percentage range. An energy check was also demonstrated, from which small and medium-sized companies in particular can benefit in order to make savings potential transparent and tap into it. 

Neubaur also inspected the new joint research laboratory of Bielefeld University and the Lemgo-based Fraunhofer Institute for Collaborative Robotics. As an exemplary application, the research team presented a process step in the production of heat pumps by the manufacturer Stiebel Eltron, in which humans are supported by robots in assembly activities. In this way, sub-steps can be automated, the shortage of skilled workers can be countered, and productivity can thus be increased in the face of the current increase in demand. "With the cooperation between Fraunhofer and Bielefeld University, we can map the entire chain in the field of human-centered automation, from basic research to application in small and medium-sized businesses," says Professor Angelika Epple, Vice-Rector for Research and International Affairs at Bielefeld University.

OWL region: impressive knowledge transfer

Professor Dr.-Ing. Jürgen Jasperneite, Director of the Fraunhofer Institute in Lemgo, will continue the contact with Düsseldorf: "We are pleased that the state appreciates our daily work in knowledge and technology transfer and will accompany our ideas for the further development of human-centered automation." 

Minister Neubaur adds, "The Smart Factory in Lemgo is an example of successful cooperation between business and science in North Rhine-Westphalia. It makes the location of East Westphalia-Lippe one of the strongest and most important driving forces for the technology transfer landscape in all of Europe. Here, companies that make a valuable contribution to the transformation of industrial SMEs meet offers and solutions.