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MERGEurope: The internationalisation strategy of the Federal Cluster of Excellence MERGE

In the course of the program “Internationalisierung von Spitzenclustern, Zukunftsprojekten und vergleichbaren Netzwerken” of the Ministry of Education and Research, the Federal Cluster of Excellence MERGE organized the international concept of “MERGEurope – Lightweight Innovation Network”. Prof. Dr. Lothar Kroll, coordinator of the Federal Cluster of Excellence MERGE, explains: “The association of MERGE with international partners to MERGEurope enables to establish new scientific-technical approaches and improve resource and energy efficiency in the future orientated field of lightweight construction technology.” Organized within the network are project partners of the countries of Czech Republic, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and Germany.

The shared objective is to significantly reduce the emission of carbon dioxide in Europe by resource efficient manufacturing and usage of lightweight constructions in mobile applications. The central organization of MERGEurope lies in Chemnitz: the Federal
Cluster of Excellence MERGE functions as a coordinator of the network, consisting of more than 400 European partners in economy and industry. This cooperation intends to develop a competitive network of the strongest lightweight regions in Europe, supporting the exchange of technologies and knowledge among individual scientific departments as well as cooperative projects between companies and research institutes. “Along with strong partner clusters in Europe new approaches on lightweight construction research and a joint innovation management instrument will be developed and tested,” Kroll explains and continues: “An international network of innovation scouts and project managers will support small and medium-sized enterprises in the involved regions in particular”.

Anja Bochmann, project coordinator of MERGEurope, and Katharina Götz, project assistant, are intermediaries between the Federal Cluster of Excellence and the association partners since spring 2016. They strengthen the connections within the cooperation to explore shared projects and fields of innovation. The development of MERGEurope is divided into two phases. In the first phase, international partners are elected and strategic approaches and goals are collectively developed until the end of 2017. Amongst other things, a two-day workshop at the end of September was held for this purpose at the Universität Breslau. Anja Bochman illustrates: “The purpose of the event was to get to know the plants and technologies at the polish university and to discuss future joint projects of MERGE and international partners.” In 2018 phase two, the realization of the agreed technology solutions of the international concept within the joint projects, will start.

The customized large-scale manufacturing of lightweight components and the reduction of process steps to reduce energy and materials are inter alia the focal points of the internationalization of MERGE. Currently planned are the projects to recycle elastomers – especially artificially produced rubber – and technologies of 3D printing and injection molding with partners from Italy, Poland and the Netherlands. “The recycle project for example is to reuse the great and available amount of old tires. Depending on the usage of the partner companies, various technologies will be applied to produce recyclates in the form of granulate and flours. The aim of the project is to find new application fields in consideration of difficulties with harmful substances“, Katharina Götz explains.

The cooperation with European enterprises intends to make the large-scale production technologies from MERGE available for small and medium-sized companies and capture market shares of the domestic lightweight construction. As a first step, a so-called Foresight study as a preview on future international trends in lightweight construction was issued, completed and presented at the end of December in Barcelona. According to this study, composites, additive production processes and recycling strategies gain in importance in international competition.

Further information about MERGEurope can be found on the homepage.

9th January 2017