Where will the journey take the Heinrich-Hertz-Institut next?

January 30, 2018


In 1971, there was a discussion about changing the institute’s direction as the Federal Ministry of Education and Science was not satisfied with the existing HHI approach and was considering stopping its funding. Even then, integration into the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft was considered as an option. This did not happen for another three decades, however.

In 1971, the Heinrich-Hertz-Institut was at a crossroads. Material from the files reveals that: If the Federal Ministry of Education and Science (BMBW) was to continue its funding, it expected the HHI to move in a more profitable direction. Several members of the institute then got together to come up with a planning concept. Despite the precise explanations of the initiatives planned, the concept was not able to persuade the ministry. In a statement, the BMBW announced that it would not continue to fund the HHI beyond 1972 if it continued with its present direction.

An alternative had to be found in order to save the institute from closure. Possible solutions discussed were an integration into the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft or the Technical University of Berlin. A change of direction was also considered, one that would concentrate the focus of work on fewer areas of research.

The last approach was the one that was ultimately chosen. To this end, a realistic objective had to be formulated in order to satisfy the BMBW's requirements. A structural commission drew up a “Draft scientific structure at the HHI.” This document made it clear that the Institute would focus its work on telecommunications.

The integration into the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft then ultimately happened in 2003 – 32 years after it was first considered. Due to a program established by the new federal government in 1998, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft became an immensely more important player in the field of information and communication technologies (ICT). HHI’s plan to become a leading institute for ICT made the integration of the Institute into the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft an attractive solution for both sides.