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Official Opening of the Fraunhofer Institute's New Building

Report on the Official Opening of the new building of the Fraunhofer Institute Graphische Datenverarbeitung, and the Fraunhofer IGD's 10th Anniversary, Darmstadt, 28 - 30 October 1997.

Figure 1: New Fraunhofer IGD building from the outside

Line Diagram

The program for the inauguration of the new Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics IGD consisted of a Reception, the opening of a new photo Exhibition of pioneers in computer graphics called "Portraits of Computer Graphics", an opening ceremony for the Institute with Keynote speeches, addresses, lectures, technical demonstrations of projects, a 2-day Workshop on "Agents, Assistants, Avatars", and a 2-day International Symposium on "Computer Graphics in the next 50 Years of Computing". This article presents an overview.

Diagram: The organisation of the Computer Graphics Institutes

Fraunhofer IGD 1987-97

Professor Jose Encarnacao, Director of the Fraunhofer Institute, outlined the work of Fraunhofer IGD 1987-97. In the globalization of industry and commerce, research and development is now open to increasing international and global competition. Countries can no longer afford to repeat research and development work done elsewhere in the world - it is an unnecessary expense that can no longer be afforded by the decrease in budgets for R&D in science and engineering areas in many countries. In addition, the delay caused by reinventing the wheel can lose market share in related business opportunities and developments. To be internationally competitive requires global awareness and global co-operation. This is particularly true for European initiatives that are now facing challenges not only from the USA but also countries on the Pacific Rim.

Figure 2: Internal view of the new Institute - emphasis on light and open spaces

Fraunhofer IGD was founded in 1987 in Darmstadt. Its objectives are applied research and development; exploration of fundamental principles and methods; opening up new application domains; implementation of prototypes; and technology transfer. The following departments address the key technology and application areas:

Demonstration Centres and Laboratories included:

Figure 3: Professor Henry Fuchs speaking at the International Symposium on "Computer Graphics in the next 50 Years of Computing"

There are now over 300 staff (which includes 200 students). Initially a $5 million per annum operation, it is now $40 million with a $3 million subsidiary in Providence, USA. The share of financing by industry is 50%. Further laboratories and links have been established in Rostock, Coimbra, and Singapore. Space occupancy is now 12,000 sq metres in the new building in Darmstadt. Total cost of construction was DM 63 million.

Notable successful projects that targeted new market areas include:

Expectations for 2005-2015 are that 63% of R&D in the area of information technology will be globally based. Key issues will become those related to intellectual contribution and intellectual property - assets which are not so visible in the final product.

Controlling the Future

The Darmstadt model for development and transfer of technology is based on the ability to shape the market by interacting with it. Three key aspects may be identified:

Expertise Centres

Darmstadt, Rostock, and Coimbra provide centres where the basic principles are well understood and high levels of expertise are available. Training and development of researchers is also carried out. There is expertise in, and experience of, a wide range of developments and applications.

Technology Partners

Providence provides the important link to make technology internationally available in the USA and in world markets. Information from state of the art technology leaders in the market place can be used to iteratively improve the process of technology transfer. Without this, the technology will miss its target.

Figure 4: Professor Jack Bresenham alongside the "Graphics Hall of Fame" - Portraits of Computer Graphics (also shown are Alvy Ray Smith, Microsoft, and Prof Dave Rogers, US Naval Academy)


Singapore provides the link to international capital and large-scale research and development programs and applications.

The strategy BMW adopts in the automotive industry is "focus", "expand" and "export". What applies to cars can also apply to the development of technology transfer via computer graphics. "Focus" develops the techniques and the technology. "Expand" means awareness of the global opportunities. "Export" requires links to world market opportunities.


Computer graphics is a key technology for enabling the convergence of information technology and telecommunications technology to take place in a way that benefits both industry and the user. Computer graphics has a key role to play in the development of new application domains, and supports the development of new technologies. Applications and technologies that are innovative will open up new markets and business opportunities.

Politics, Science and Business

Dr Fritz Schaumann, State Secretary of the Federal Ministry for Education, Science, Research and Technology, outlined the strategy for scientific research which involved: 32 Fraunhofer Institutes supported areas of work in: DM 1 billion was made available for these areas. Aspects of particular interest for the future are mobile multimedia, user-friendly interfaces, and visualization of knowledge.

Prof Dr Hans-Jurgen Warnecke, President of the Fraunhofer Institutes, explained how global networking and links to the USA, Singapore and Malaysia provide valuable enabling information to increase productivity and facilitate technology transfer. An entrepreneurial culture was essential to be successful in the future.

Prof Roger Mandle, President of the Rhode Island School of Design, outlined strategic areas of interest, including art and design. These were as follows:

Prof Harcharan Singh, Dean of Applied Science, Nanyang Technical University, Singapore, explained how the developments in Singapore linked in to the initiatives in Europe. A Research and Development Centre for Advanced Media Technology opened in January 1998 to support multidisciplinary graphics and imaging technology, with industrial sponsorship. This supports applied research and development projects to provide for the near-term needs of industry.

Figure 5: Professor Jose Encarnacao (with Professor Bert Herzog) names a room in the new Building the "Herzog Room"

Also contributing speeches at the Opening Ceremony were: Rolf Praml, State Secretary of the Hessian Ministry for Science and Art, Peter Benz, Lord Mayor of Darmstadt, Prof Dr Johann-Dietrich Worner, President of the Darmstadt University of Technology, Prof Dr Gerhard Maess, Rector of the University of Rostock, Prof Peder J Estrup, Dean of Research and Dean of the Graduate School, Brown University, Prof Steve Cunningham, Chairman of SIGGRAPH, Dr Hans-Peter Kohlhammer, Speaker of the Executive Board of Thyssen Telecom AG (Chairman of the Board of the Curators of Fraunhofer IGD), Dr Hubert Burda, CEO of Burda Holding, and Tham Nyip Shen, Deputy Chief Minister, Ministry of Industrial Development Sabah, Malaysia.

Technical Demonstrations

100 major projects at Fraunhofer IGD were demonstrated during the opening event and the symposium, and illustrated the wide variety of research and development currently being undertaken in all areas of computer graphics, visualization, multimedia, human computer interaction, networking, and applications.


A volume containing the speeches, lectures and presentations at the International Symposium is available from Fraunhofer IGD. Also included is a detailed review of the development of computer graphics in Darmstadt, Rostock, Providence, and Coimbra, 1987-97. Further information on Fraunhofer IGD can be found at:

Further information on Fraunhofer in Providence, USA, may be found at:

Useful References

Computer Graphik Topics 5/97, Vol 9, Reports of External Divisions on the occasion of the Fraunhofer IGD Ceremonial Event, 28 - 30 October 1997

Rae Earnshaw