MERGE Technology Centre in Chemnitz – a joint initiative of 23 research institutes initiates top-class lightweight innovations from European SMEs
MERGE is the first German cluster of Excellence in the fields of lightweight materials and manufacturing technologies. It is the result of an initiative, which has been taken by Chemnitz University of Technology in the framework of the Federal Excellence initiative. MERGE is considered as one of the main crosscutting projects for the implementation of the S3- Strategy of Saxony. Aiming at the development and implementation of sustainable, resource-efficient, affordable innovative materials and technologies, MERGE connects 23 regional research institutes and universities. They have joined their resources in order to use commonly the MERGE Technology Centre. This is a campus-like open research and innovation infrastructure, giving access to research equipment, Know-how and expertise, innovation management support and business contacts for SMEs and research teams. It stimulates innovation partnerships with SMEs by providing unique large-scale production testbeds and high-tech incubator conditions. That facilitates the linkage of research institutes and local SMEs with automotive, aerospace and mechanical engineering companies. Furthermore, they benefit from a dedicated internationalisation programme, which helps them to co-operate with international partners, which would be out of the reach of most companies. As co-ordinator of the European Alliance of Lightweight Clusters (ELCA, www.elcanetwork.eu) MERGE is a recognised hub of a European lightweight innovation network.
40 mill. € infrastructure investment from national and regional fundings, ca. 100 employees in 6 interacting research domains and internationally experienced managers for the cluster development
Evidence of success
Successful implementation of more than 400 innovation projects with companies
Representatives of 50 companies have been attracted to a long–term co-operation with MERGE in the industrial advisory board.
Publication of more than 500 scientific articles and registered 11 patents.
7000 m2 research area developed and are being used commonly.
Through the integration in European initiatives and consortia MERGE-members reach more than 16 European lightweight clusters and their members.
The centre is a joint investment of a whole range of various innovation players and research institutes. The most challenging step is to define the common strategic vision for the investment and to bring it into life, with no regard to different interests and financial capacities.
Potential for learning or transfer
The MERGE Technology Centre is an example for a joint investment of 23 research institutes into a high-quality research infrastructure. It required the development of a common research agenda and has initiated an open-innovation process in Saxony. Apart from the investment in technical and scientific equipment it is crucial to invest in people and network of people, who is able and willing to set the local innovation infrastructure into an international context and to interlink it with other European innovation infrastructures, to align and to leverage local research and innovation strategies. Finally, this way cannibalisation or double investments can be avoided and innovation funds will be used more efficiently. In the case of MERGE it led also not only to increased scientific excellence of the research, but also to an improved SME-innovation support and successful European innovation projects and an improved awareness of European SME-support.