2021 Annual Report

Editorial: The key to our success is our team

Prof. Dr. Jakob Edler
Univ.-Prof. Dr. Marion Weissenberger-Eibl

Every year, Fraunhofer ISI makes a major contribution to shaping our future through its research and consulting activities. We managed this again in 2021, despite the ongoing pandemic. In more than 400 projects, we addressed important issues for society and generated a turnover of around 32 million euros.

One highlight of the year was hosting the International Sustainability Transitions Conference, which enabled us to demonstrate and further expand our role as an international leader within the Sustainable Transition Community. Under the motto “From research toward impact”, more than 500 participants from around the world gathered to follow nearly 150 sessions and over 300 keynotes.

We also contributed our expertise to more than 200 publications. For example, we collaborated on the annual report of the Commission of Experts on research, innovation and technological performance in Germany 2021, and accompanied the funding program “Battery 2020, technology sovereignty based on the example of the emerging battery industry in Europe”.

In terms of content, our main focus in 2021 was on changes in the climate, digitalization and systemic risks (resilience), as well as the important question concerning the state’s role in all these transformation processes and the systemic innovations they require. We addressed some of the particularly relevant topics as policy briefs in our “Perspectives” series: Digitalization, Mission-oriented innovation policy, and Systemic resilience. Working on all these different topics requires a high degree of networking that combines core competencies and makes a systemic work approach possible in the first place.

At Fraunhofer ISI, we use the synergy of our colleagues’ technical, economic and social science knowledge and work together on the important transformations of society. A high degree of diversity is a key component of our success. Our teams feature a mix of nationalities, ages and gender and are made up of natural and social scientists, economists, and engineers. In 2021, we pushed the topic of diversity in many areas, for example through an in-depth analysis of the institute’s current gender diversity and a concept based on this. This included further training and workshops for our employees and awareness-raising among those in management positions, as well as a series of presentations. We were given second place in the Fraunhofer “BestChance” award 2021 for our commitment.
Our successful activities were also noticed by others. Helped by our media activities, we were able to continue to enhance our visibility over the year and reach decision-makers in policymaking and business, experts as well as a broad, international public.

We have compiled some of the highlights from 2021 on this page to provide an overview of successful projects, major topics, facts and figures, as well as staff and organizational changes. We hope you enjoy reading about them!

The Institute’s Directors

The projects making a great impact: Highlights from 2021



How can responsible research and innovation (RRI) be better promoted and integrated in German and European research and innovation policy and funding than has been the case to date?


Raw materials for emerging technologies 2021

Many new technologies are raw-material intensive, and high-tech products often require particularly critical raw materials. How can Germany's supply of important raw materials be secured in the face of new innovations and megatrends?


Long-term scenarios ("Langfristszenarien")

Which scenarios for the future development of the energy system can help to achieve Germany's energy and climate policy goals?


Scenarios for the Government's Commission on the Future of Agriculture

Carrying on as things are at present would cause problems, but what could sustainable futures look like in agriculture and food supply in Germany?


Impact of Open-Source Software on the EU

What are the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and challenges of Open Source in the relevant policy areas such as cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, Industry 4.0, automated driving, high-performance computing, Big Data and Blockchain?


Tackling Deepfakes in European Policy

How can we deal in the future in Europe with Deepfake technology, which can generate counterfeits largely autonomously using machine learning or artificial intelligence methods?


Giving advice to the KfW for the creation of sector guidelines for the management of portfolios

Which guidelines and criteria can the KfW (state-owned investment and development bank) use to determine whether technologies in emission intensive sectors are compatible with the climate targets of the Paris Agreement and therefore eligible for funding?


Holistic analysis of innovation ecosystems

Which indicators can be used to quantify knowledge streams or their potential within ecosystems? 

Interview with Manfred Wittenstein, Chairman of the Board of Trustees: "Understanding diversity as an ongoing process"

What are the characteristics of a successful team?

In my opinion, a successful team is one whose members have completely different expectations and opinions at the beginning of a task. This is because critical and constructive engagement, as well as solution-oriented discourse with the broadest possible diversity of perspectives are the greatest assets of a team.

What is your experience of diversity at Fraunhofer ISI?

Fraunhofer ISI relies heavily on diversity. This is not only imperative but logical because to follow a systemic approach and not to rely on diversity would be plain stupid. Diversity in practice is based on mutual respect, moderation and being open to other ways of thinking-this is in fact how I experience it at Fraunhofer ISI. Diversity is meanwhile an established culture at the Institute.

What can an institute such as Fraunhofer ISI do to achieve more diversity?

I think that Fraunhofer ISI is on the right path. In my experience, diversity in organizations and networks can only be increased in small steps, taken at a slow pace. The level reached must always be proved sustainable enough before it can be further increased. For as undeniable as the advantage of diversity may be it automatically leads to further complexity. It is important not to get carried away, but to understand diversity as a continuous process, as an ongoing task.

Personnel and organizational changes in 2021


Axel Thielmann is the new Head of CC Emerging Technologies

In January 2021, Dr. Axel Thielmann took over as Head of the Competence Center Emerging Technologies, of which he had already been Deputy Head since 2010.

Thielmann joined Fraunhofer ISI in 2007 as a research associate and among other things is responsible for coordinating nanotechnology activities at the institute. Since 2012, he has also been Fraunhofer ISI's representative in the Fraunhofer Battery Alliance and, since June 2016, has been Head of the Industrial Technologies Business Unit.


Andrea Zenker is the new Deputy Head of the CC Policy and Society

Dr. Andrea Zenker has been Deputy Head of the Competence Center Policy and Society since January 2021.

Zenker joined Fraunhofer ISI in 1997 as a research associate and received her PhD in geography from the Université de Strasbourg in 2007. Her work focuses on regional research, regional innovation strategies, methodological foundations of innovation research, the knowledge economy and the innovation system in France.


New cross-cutting topic: Hydrogen

Dr. Andrea Herbst heads the new cross-cutting topic of hydrogen. The interdisciplinary cross-cutting topic bundles long-standing know-how across the Institute's Competence Centers. 

The main research areas include hydrogen production and application, hydrogen import and infrastructure, regulation and standardization, governance and strategy, as well as analyses of the social acceptance of hydrogen and its sustainability.

Andrea Herbst has been a research associate at the Competence Center Energy Technologies and Energy Systems since May 2012.


Peter Neuhäusler heads the new business unit

Dr. Peter Neuhäusler has been Head of the newly established Competitiveness and Innovation Measurement business unit in the Competence Center Innovation and Knowledge Economy since March 2021.

The business unit examines the technological performance of fields, countries and markets in order to map relevant aspects of innovation activity and in economies or industries in a meaningful way.

Peter Neuhäusler has been a researcher at Fraunhofer ISI since February 2009 and a project manager since 2012.


Sincere thanks to Thomas Reiß

Dr. Thomas Reiß handed over the helm of the Competence Center Emerging Technologies to Dr. Axel Thielmann in January.

Reiß had led the CC since 2005. From 1996 to 2004, he was Head of the then CC Innovations in Biotechnology; from 2006 to 2007, he was Deputy Director of the Institute. Reiß joined ISI in 1987 as a research associate. We sincerely thank him for his outstanding contributions to the Institute!


ISI is a new guest member of the Fraunhofer Group for Energy Technologies and Climate Protection

The Fraunhofer Group for Energy Technologies and Climate Protection represents the voice of the Fraunhofer Institutes in political bodies at national and EU level. Fraunhofer ISI has been a guest member since 2021 and contributes systems analysis expertise as well as innovation and acceptance research to the Group.



News from the Board of Trustees

Dr. Anna Christmann

We would like to welcome a new member to the Board of Trustees, Dr. Anna Christmann, Member of the Bundestag in the Bündnis 90/Die Grünen parliamentary group and Federal Government Coordinator for German Aerospace and Commissioner for Digital Economy & Startups.

Lisi Maier

We would like to welcome Lisi Maier, Director of the Federal Foundation for Gender Equality, as a new member of the Board of Trustees.

Dr. Ludwin Monz

We would like to welcome Dr. Ludwin Monz, CEO of Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG,  as a new member of the Board of Trustees.

Prof. Dr. Barbara Praetorius

We would like to welcome Prof. Dr. Barbara Praetorius, Professor of Sustainability, Environmental and Energy Economics and Policy at HTW Berlin, as a new member of the Board of Trustees.

Dr. Mirjam Storim

We would like to welcome Dr. Mirjam Storim, Head of Innovation Strategy and Strategic Value Creation at the BMW Group, as a new member of the Board of Trustees.

Thomas Bachem

We bid farewell to Thomas Bachem (Chancellor, CODE University of Applied Sciences), who left the Board of Trustees at the end of the year. Many thanks for the many years of commitment!


Our Board of Trustees

The Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI is advised by the Board of Trustees, which consists of members from science, industry, politics and administration.