Bettina Schragl

IMMOFINANZ cluster project with RWTH Aachen – When industry enrols at university

"Industry 4.0", "automobile of the future", new "hot spots for research and industry" – at the beginning of the week these ideas were on the lips of everyone at the "Kübelfest" celebration for our cluster project at the RWTH Aachen campus. After all, one of the world's most important knowledge and research centres is being built on the premises of RWTH Aachen (Rhine-Westphalia Institute of Technology) – up to 19 research clusters on a space of 800,000 sqm. With gross floor space of 32,000 sqm and an investment volume of around EUR 60 million, the production technology cluster, for which IMMOFINANZ acts as investor and developer, is the biggest cluster on campus so far.On Monday we reported on the construction progress together with RWTH Aachen (Rhine-Westphalia Institute of Technology). In addition to NRW Finance Minister Walter-Borjans, over 140 guests from the federal, state and regional governments as well as representatives from the university and industry took part in the celebration – the "Kübelfest".

"The cluster is to become one of the most important research and experimentation platforms for digitally integrated production technology and Industry 4.0 applications in Europe", said Prof. Günther Schuh, director of the production technology cluster. "As many as 800 researchers as well as experts from the field of industry will conduct research together here in the future".

In his speech CEO Oliver Schumy mentioned that the production technology cluster is another cornerstone in IMMOFINANZ's German portfolio. "Not only are we strengthening our presence in North Rhine-Westphalia, where we are already firmly anchored in Cologne and Düsseldorf; for us the campus development is a showpiece because of the close cooperation between industry and science in the development of pioneering production technologies. We are proud to play a role in the creation of one of Europe's biggest research environments".

For NRW Finance Minister Walter-Borjans, RWTH Aachen and its development plans are "pathbreaking for the NRW industrial location" – and he also promised his continued support. "Not only is space for researchers being created on the campus, but also for companies at home in the area of production technology".

Incidentally, the work at the building site is proceeding on schedule: since beginning construction in January, the excavation work is now nearly finished. Construction of the shell was begun in mid-March. And we are well within our timetable for completion in fall 2016.

What research focuses will the production technology cluster have? With over 100 industrial enterprises enrolled, the opportunities for the production development process arising from Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things will be explored on an experimental basis. Real-time simulation of complex production chains with the help of digital shadowing, learning factories arising from big data use and concepts of use for cloud technologies to master production control are central issues in the cooperation between the RWTH institutes and industrial enterprises in the areas of production machinery, road and rail vehicles, electric engines, aircraft and complex tools.

Another word on the "automobile of the future" and what that has to do with Aachen: a few years ago researchers associated with Prof. Schuh at RWTH Aachen took up the challenge to not only develop and build a low-cost electric car, but also to make it feasible for the market. And the start-up established out of the university became a total success: at the end of last year Deutsche Post acquired the Aachen-based Streetscooter GmbH. More than 200 vehicles have been produced in the meantime. And at RWTH Aachen work pertaining to the subject of course continues.

Pictures: Steindl/Campus GmbH