Women power inventors at Fraunhofer IIS: Dr. Elke Roth-Mandutz – 5G could be even better

Dr. Elke Roth-Mandutz leverages her creativity and experience in standardization to improve the security and energy efficiency of this mobile communications standard

Is there a patent that you’re particularly proud of?

One of my first patents was granted in 2018. I took part in a standardization meeting on wireless communications with support from a colleague in the back office. We’d gone to great lengths to prepare ourselves on the topic of quality of service for V2X (vehicle-to-everything) communication communications, but we found out in the course of the meeting that our ideas were already covered by similar proposals from other companies. Toward the end of the meeting, a new requirement was introduced: In addition to quality, we now also had to consider reliability during the establishment of a direct radio link between vehicles – and no one proposed any corresponding solutions in the meeting. This was our chance! With just a few weeks to go until the next meeting, we had to work very quickly. We brought two more-experienced colleagues on board, one of whom was abroad at the time. Although the time difference meant lots of late-night meetings, it was worthwhile in the end ­– our idea was ready just in time for the next meeting.


How many patents have you been involved in?

It’s definitely more than 30 by now. Since 2017, I’ve been working as program manager for standardization at Fraunhofer IIS and creating patents for the 5G mobile communications standard. We always work as a team – after all, experience shows that patents are usually successful when they combine the creativity and specialist knowledge of multiple experts. That’s why my name appears on so many patents.


How is a 5G patent created?

We consider what we could improve about the 5G mobile communications standard, which requires us to know the standard like the back of our hand. We write contributions following the discussions of the standardization meetings, in which we play an active role, and engage in dialog with international companies such as Ericsson, Qualcomm, and Nokia as well as with numerous smaller companies and research institutions. Above all, our aim is to apply new use cases in 5G standardization, considering also automotive and industrial applications.


What challenges do patents entail?

One major challenge is that it can take five or six years for a patent to be granted, during which time the examiners at the patent offices may send you a series of reports saying things like “this aspect of the patent idea is neither new nor inventive.” The task is then to convince the examiners of how different our idea is from previously patents, for example. 


Apart from your research topic, what other areas are you interested in?

In the area of 5G standardization, one topic we’ve worked on from the outset at Fraunhofer IIS is direct communication between end devices, such as vehicles to improve driving safety and to enable autonomous driving. We engage in constant dialog with the automotive industry on this topic. Subjects such as safe and reliable communication and continuous data exchange will also play a key role in future vehicular communication.

Energy saving is another topic that I believe is very important – and it was also the topic of my doctoral research in mobile communications. Dramatic increases in energy prices have also brought this area to the attention of mobile network operators. As well as benefits in terms of sustainability, the economic dimension is essential to run a mobile network. At our department, sustainability has therefore become a further key aspect that we pursue in standardization and incorporate into research projects.


What would be your advice to young women who are currently choosing a course of studies?

The fields of engineering and computer science provide an opportunity to grapple with topics such as wind energy, solar energy, or storage systems for renewable energy – and therefore to rise to the great challenge of our era: climate change. This will be a key issue in the future, and it’s an area where women can bring a welcome change of perspective and make a significant difference.


Which great scientific question would you like an answer to?

How can we bring global warming under control without making dramatic sacrifices for humans now and in the future?


The interview was conducted by Saskia McDonagh from the editorial team of Fraunhofer IIS Magazine

Further Information


Communication Systems


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