1953 – The beginnings as interfacial institute

Institutsgebäude in Marienthal.
© Fraunhofer IGB
Institute building in Marienthal.

The roots of the IGB lie in the village of Marienthal near Kirchheimbolanden in the Rhineland-Palatinate. In 1953 the Institute for Interfacial Physics and Chemistry was founded as a private initiative in order to devote themselves of interfacial processes on powdered solids.

In 1962, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft took over the institute, initially under its previous name “Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Physics and Chemistry IGf”.

In 1969 the “Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Physics and Chemistry IGf”moved to Stuttgart, where Prof. Karl Hamann, head of the Stuttgart Research Institute for Pigments and Coatings, took over as acting director.

1976 – Expansion of bioprocess engineering

Horst Chmiel
© Fraunhofer IGB
Prof. Dr.-Ing. Horst Chmiel
IGB Standort Eierstraße, Stuttgart
© Fraunhofer IGB
IGB Location Eierstraße, Stuttgart.
Der Neubau in Stuttgart-Vaihingen wird 1981 bezogen.
© Fraunhofer IGB
The new building in Stuttgart-Vaihingen is moved into in 1981.

In 1976, Dr.-Ing. Horst Chmiel, then engaged in medical technology research at the Helmholtz Institute in Aachen, was appointed successor to Prof. Hamann, who retired on age grounds.

His concern was to introduce bioengineering to the institute and to steer the existing “interfacial” orientation of its work more strongly toward process engineering and its applications. Thus research was thematically expanded, and the institute received its current name, “Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology”, abbreviated in German to IGB.

A new research focus was added: the “interfacial problems of medicine”, the interface between the “interfaces” and the new field of medical engineering.

Today’s key area of environmental biotechnology dates back to 1978, when it was established to develop and optimize bioprocesses for applications such as the production of biogas from agricultural waste like manure and sewage sludge, for optimizing wastewater treatment, and for the production of organic acids by use of biotechnology.

Membrane technology kicked off in 1979 as the research focus “Transport processes through membranes” in the area of medical technology. Within a few years the institute was able to extend the membrane technology to other applications such as product recycling and develop it into a fi eld of research of significant importance to industry.

When the Fraunhofer IGB moved to a new building with state-of-the-art laboratories at today’s Fraunhofer Campus in Stuttgart-Vaihingen in 1981, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft and the state of Baden-Württemberg laid the foundation for fruitful cooperation between the Fraunhofer institutes and the scientific and technical institutes of the university.

After the appointment of Prof. Chmiel to the University of Saarbrücken in 1992, Prof. Armin Fiechter from ETH Zurich initially held the post of acting director of the Fraunhofer IGB. He was followed by Dr. Herbert Bauser, head of the institute’s Interfacial Process Engineering department. Subsequently Dr. Christian Oehr, who built up the plasma technology at the IGB, was made departmental head.

1994 – The introduction of molecular biotechnology makes IGB a life sciences institute

Mit Prof. Dr. techn. Herwig Brunner zieht die molekulare Biotechnologie ein.
© Fraunhofer IGB
With Prof. Dr. techn. Herwig Brunner, molecular biotechnology moves in.

In 1994, Prof. Herwig Brunner came from Boehringer Mannheim to the Fraunhofer IGB as director.

Intent on a solid scientific foundation for the application-oriented research at the IGB, Brunner instigated the creation of a chair for Interfacial Engineering at the University of Stuttgart, which after five years was elevated to institute status (IGVT).

One year later, in 1995, the institute took over the Department of Genetic Engineering at the then Fraunhofer Institute of Toxicology and Aerosol Research ITA in Hanover, which specialized in recombinant protein production and the design of pharmaceutical proteins.

Parallel to these activities, Brunner added further molecular biological competences to the IGB. In 1998, the “Protein screening systems” junior research team (Dr. Steffen Rupp), moved into new, dedicated premises. At the same time, Brunner built a bridge from biotechnology to interfacial engineering: with a second junior research group “Biomimetic interfaces” (Dr. Günter Tovar). The junior research group “Protein screening systems” will later be transferred to the Department of Molecular Biotechnology. Dr. Günter Tovar will initially be a group manager in the Department of Interfacial Engineering and Materials Science, before concentrating on university research and teaching as deputy director at the Institute of Interfacial Engineering IGVT.

Acting with foresight, Brunner also strengthened cell biology activities at the IGB, systematically developed them into cell system research – with the goal of tissue engineering. In 2004, Prof. Heike Walles became head of department for “human-cell interfaces”. Through cooperations with the neighboring Fraunhofer IPA, Brunner is also pushing forward the connection of natural sciences and engineering sciences.

2007 – Focusing on project groups, bioeconomy and sustainability

Prof. Dr. Thomas Hirth
Bundeskanzlerin Dr. Angela Merkel, Prof. Dr. Thomas Hirth, Ministerpräsident Dr. Reiner Haseloff
Chancellor Dr. Angela Merkel, Prof. Dr. Thomas Hirth, Dr. Reiner Haseloff / Prime minister Saxony-Anhalt

In December 2007, Prof. Dr. Thomas Hirth from the Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology ICT took over as director of the IGB and created the business areas medicine, pharmacy, chemistry, environment, and energy. With his contacts in industrial biotechnology, he brought back to the institute a subject that the Fraunhofer IGB had researched in broad outline in the past, namely the manufacture of products from renewables (renewables conversion). At the same time he ensured that the topics of bioeconomy and sustainability became not only a key part of the research landscape at the Fraunhofer IGB and the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, but also a core aspect of national German and Baden-Württemberg research policies. Hirth also oversaw the expansion of Fraunhofer IGB activities to Würzburg, Straubing and Leuna, where project groups on oncology, on chemocatalysis and biocatalysis and the Fraunhofer Center for Chemical-Biotechnological Processes CBP were established.

When the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft discontinued the Technology Development Group (TEG) in 2009, the Department of Physical Process Engineering under the direction of the process engineer Siegfried Egner was integrated into the IGB.

In July 2009, a joint Federal Government / Länder committee approved the setting up of a “Chemical Biotechnological Process Center” (head: Gerd Unkelbach) in Leuna, Saxony-Anhalt.

On August 1 of the same year, the project groups BioCat (head: Prof. Volker Sieber) and Oncology (head: Prof. Heike Walles) commenced their activities in Straubing and Würzburg.

In 2011, Prof. Trösch handed over management of the Environmental Biotechnology and Bioprocess Engineering Department to Dr.-Ing. Ursula Schließmann, previously his deputy.

On October 2, 2012 the German Federal Chancellor Dr. Angela Merkel inaugurated the CBP in Leuna. For the first time, the CBP makes it possible to transfer the material use of renewable raw materials more quickly into industrial applications. It has taken a key position in German and European bioeconomy research since then.

At the University of Stuttgart, the Institute for Plasma Research was integrated into the former Institute for Interfacial Engineering IGVT at the turn of the year 2012/2013 to become the Institute of Interfacial Process Engineering and Plasma Technology IGVPInstitute of Interfacial Process Engineering and Plasma Technology. Thus plasma activities in Stuttgart are now bundled, strengthening the roots of the IGB, with which the IGVP is closely associated.

The Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB celebrated its 60th anniversary on September 25, 2013 with a commemorative symposium.

At the end of 2013, BioCat also received a notification of funding for the “Center for Energy Storage” at the Straubing site, since then, the Free State of Bavaria has been continuing to provide funding for the Center and will do so until the five-year period ends.

2013, Prof. Dr. Katja Schenke-Layland and Prof. Dr. Petra Kluger took over the management of the Cell and Tissue Engineering Department of Prof. Walles, who focuses on Würzburg after approval of a translational center for medical products and regenerative therapies.

With the start-up financing by the relevant federal states having come to an end, and with the groups having been successfully
evaluated, in 2014 all three project groups – in Leuna, Straubing and Würzburg – were transferred over to the combined federal and statelevel financing arrangements (Bund-Länder-Finanzierung) of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, thereby becoming permanent branches of the Fraunhofer IGB.

Thanks to additional funding from Bavaria, in mid-July 2014 the project group became part of the new Fraunhofer Translational Center “Regenerative Therapies for Oncology and Musculoskeletal Diseases”.

2018 – Strategic repositioning "Sustainable technologies for human health and the health of our planet"

© Frank Kleinbach / Fraunhofer IGB
Dr. Markus Wolperdinger
Following a reorientation, IGB is now concentrating on the business areas of health, sustainable chemistry and environment.
Following a reorientation, IGB is now concentrating on the business areas of health, sustainable chemistry and environment.
Campaign 70 years, 70 voices
Start of the “70 years, 70 voices“ campaign from the anniversary year 2023

After Thomas Hirth went to the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology KIT at the turn of the year 2015/2016, Prof. Dr. Katja Schenke-Layland and Hon.-Prof. Dr. Christian Oehr take over the interim management of the institute.  

With effect from March 1, 2018, Dr. Markus Wolperdinger becomes Director of Fraunhofer IGB.

In a comprehensive strategy process, he repositions the institute according to the vision "We combine biology and engineering". In doing so, he builds on the process engineering roots of the institute and the ability to combine biological and process engineering skills grown at IGB over many years, just like in the IGB guiding theme of bioeconomy. Organizationally, R&D topics are bundled in cross-location innovation fields.

The IGB's range of services and topics are focused in the business areas "Health", "Environment" and "Sustainable Chemistry".

The new mission statement serves as a guard rail: "With our applied and customer-focused research, we develop biotechnological processes for resource-friendly production within a sustainable economy and technologies that are designed to maintain human health within a healthy environment – in short: we develop sustainable technologies for human health and the health of our planet.

On May 3, 2018, Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft and the University of Stuttgart present the "High-Performance Center for Mass Personalization" to invited guests from industry, science and politics.

On January 9th, 2019, Bavaria's Minister of Economic Affairs, Hubert Aiwanger, hands over the funding grant for the establishment of the Laboratory for Technical Biopolymers at the Straubing branch of Fraunhofer IGB.

On May 15th, 2019, Dr. Markus Wolperdinger and Professor Thomas Bauernhansl, Director of Fraunhofer IPA, are presenting a white paper on biointelligent value creation to politicians at the first Biointelligent Products and Production conference of the "Biointelligence Competence Center".

On May 21, 2019, the "Fraunhofer Project Center for Drug Discovery and Delivery at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem", with which the Fraunhofer IGB is consolidating its cooperation with Israel, is inaugurated with a ceremony at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

With the signing of the cooperation agreement in February 2020, the long-standing collaboration between the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft and the South African Stellenbosch University is transferred into the "Fraunhofer Innovation Platform for the Water-Energy-Food Nexus at Stellenbosch University" (FIP-WEF@SU).

The starting signal for the Hydrogen Lab Leuna, an electrolysis test and trial platform, and the scaling platform Hy2Chem in Leuna is marked on March 4, 2020.

On May 21, 2021, the Hydrogen Lab Leuna starts operation as the first pilot plant for testing and scaling up the electrolysis systems required for this purpose, which is fully integrated into a chemical park.

On March 3, 2022, the Ministry for the Environment, Climate and Energy Management of Baden-Württemberg announces which projects will receive funding through the ERDF-BW program "Bioeconomy Bio-Ab-Cycling." Fraunhofer IGB is involved in each of the five funded biorefinery projects on the use of waste and wastewater as a resource, and is the coordinator of three of the projects.

On December 2, 2022, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft presents the roadmap "Circular Bioeconomy for Germany" to representatives of the Federal Ministries of Research and Economics. With the roadmap, Fraunhofer identifies potentials of the bioeconomy and presents recommendations for action for policy makers.

In 2023, Fraunhofer IGB celebrates its 70th anniversary and the Fraunhofer CBP its 10th anniversary in the form of symposia. Employees, former institute directors, and companions and partners from the worlds of research, politics and business have their say in the course of this anniversary year through our “70 voices” campaign.