Pooling and applying research – How the InSignA High-Performance Center is helping local SMEs with digitalization

13. Oktober 2022 | In this interview, Jörg Robert provides insights into the collaboration at the InSignA High-Performance Center.

Located in the town of Ilmenau in the German state of Thuringia, the InSignA High-Performance Center aims to harness synergy effects at a local level and to assist small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with digitalization and other projects. Jörg Robert, Deputy Head of the Electronic Measurements and Signal Processing (EMS) department and professor at TU Ilmenau, explains: “Part of our mission as a research organization is to successfully transfer the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft’s research and technologies and apply them to serve industry and society. High-Performance Centers are incubators of innovation with a regional focus.”

© Fraunhofer IDMT / Stefanie Theiß
Jörg Robert, deputy head of EMS, demonstrates the open-source module that makes it easy for SMEs to gain experience with the mioty® wireless LPWAN technology.
© Eleonora Hamburg, TU Ilmenau
Jörg Robert checks the base station for the LPWAN test bed on the roof of the Helmholz Building.

The InSignA High-Performance Center was established in Ilmenau in March 2021. This project’s principal initiators were local Fraunhofer Institutes – including Fraunhofer IIS, Fraunhofer IDMT, Fraunhofer IKTS, Fraunhofer IOSB and Fraunhofer IZFP – which wanted to strengthen their collaboration and pool their research with a view to working on joint projects. Also involved in the project are TU Ilmenau and the IMMS Institute for Microelectronics and Mechatronic Systems. The InSignA High-Performance Center provides an organizational framework in which the partners can collaborate.

Various pilot projects have been running since 2021, including one to set up a low-power wide-area network (LPWAN) test bed. This project has brought more structure to the collaboration and advanced the expansion of the hardware infrastructure. Regular meetings provide a forum for discussing ongoing projects and project inquiries, agreeing on requirements and then processing the relevant topics in the appropriate expert groups. “In this collaboration, we naturally benefit from remote working options, but also from being grouped closely together in Ilmenau,” Robert says about how the collaboration is organized. Both these factors – remote working and the institutes being close to each other – are important for the collaboration because there won’t be a shared workspace until the InSignA High-Performance Center exists as a distinct legal entity. Until this happens, the project participants will use the existing (physical and virtual) infrastructure available in Ilmenau.


»The general idea was to strengthen collaboration among the different Ilmenau-based Fraunhofer Institutes and work on joint orders.« 

- Jörg Robert, Deputy Head of EMS

Grid utilization – a joint project with Stadtwerke Ilmenau GmbH 

In each project, the participating institutions contribute their strengths and core competences in a wide range of research fields. Fraunhofer IIS’s main contribution is its expertise in communications and communication systems, gained for instance in the areas of 3GPP standardization or LPWAN technologies such as mioty®

Just how beneficial the collaborative partnership is to the projects is perfectly illustrated by the current collaboration with Stadtwerke Ilmenau GmbH, the local municipal utility company. In some town districts, the company requires more precise data on actual grid utilization. Without this valuable data, the company sometimes cannot be sure whether charging stations or heat pumps installed at new houses can be connected to the power grid, or if doing so will trigger an overload. The InSignA High-Performance Center provides a solution that draws heavily on the sensor and preprocessing technologies from Fraunhofer IZFP, the mioty® transmission technology from Fraunhofer IIS, and data analysis from Fraunhofer IOSB. “This digital power grid project is a particularly fine example of how our various competences dovetail with each other,” Robert says.


»Our projects pool the strengths of all participating institutions. In this way, we can complete projects together that the individual participants wouldn’t be able to manage alone.« 

- Jörg Robert, Deputy Head of EMS



Innovation Hub ideas competition for SMEs 

The collaboration helps SMEs like Stadtwerke Ilmenau GmbH, which don’t have the resources to finance their own research departments. One such special initiative is the InSignA Innovation Hub, or iHUB for short. This is where SMEs can submit ideas for projects as part of a competition, with a jury selecting which projects proceed. A key goal of the project, and of the InSignA High-Performance Center in general, is to encourage companies to approach and collaborate with the research institutions. And what happens next in the medium term? “The project is really still just getting started. The plan is to stabilize the collaboration and further raise our profile,” Robert says.


More information about the InSignA High-Performance Center

Further information


Communication Systems


Positioning and Networks


Series: Industry 4.0 for SMEs


mioty® – The Wireless IoT Technology


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