Challenges and Results


The worlds of things, services and data are converging

Intelligent machines and assistance systems support people at work. Individually tailored medical implants increase quality of life for patients. Automated vehicles navigate through city traffic of their own accord, avoiding dangers autonomously. In short: Our working and living environments are profoundly affected by digitisation, connectivity and new technologies. Wherever man and machine interact and data is collected, security issues will arise, regarding for instance the protection of intellectual property, privacy and liability issues or indeed job security. Hence, the basic question is: How can new technologies and interconnected systems provide assistance to people and at the same time contribute to prosperity and growth? What basic conditions need to be defined? acatech develops recommendations and policy options to help the political echelons and the public find sustainable answers and solutions.

The Robot Car: Paving the way for automated driving

The "robot car", navigating driverless through the streets, gave rise to controversial discussions in the media and the public in the past year. This was not least in consequence of an acatech POSITION PAPER which the project group "New autoMobility" presented at the 2015 International Automobile Fair (IAA). The project, which is funded by the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure, drew up a target scenario of automated road traffic in 2030. 

The acatech POSITION PAPER concludes: Both as a research location and with view to its leading automotive industry, Germany is well positioned to take an active part in shaping the alterations in our mobility system. However, there are legal and social questions that require clarification: Who is liable if an automated car causes an accident? How can data be protected against misuse? And how do we reorganise working life structures in a world where buses and trucks are no longer controlled by people? The acatech project pools these questions and will address them more closely in the second phase of the project in 2016.

„As the world’s current no. 1 automotive stronghold, Germany provides the crucial impulses for the mobility revolution. If we wish to maintain this position, we need to ensure that key technologies for mobility 4.0 are developed, researched, tested and produced in Germany.”

Federal Minister of Transport Alexander Dobrindt on the occasion of the publication of the acatech POSITION PAPER "New autoMobility" in September 2015

Autonomous Systems: Intelligent assistance in everyday life and extreme situations

Automated driving is only one example of the manifold application fields of autonomous systems. In areas unfit for human habitation or difficult to access, such as the deep sea or in rescue operations, robots already provide valuable support. The new generation of autonomous systems, however, have far more advanced abilities: They acquire knowledge of their own accord, make own decisions and can react to unforeseen events.

Interconnected and controlled by intelligent software, these machines could offer substantial assistance by taking over tasks in the health system, the household or in factories. The success of such a scenario depends as much on the reliability and efficiency of autonomous systems as on their public acceptance. Finding, as it were, something of ourselves in autonomous humanoid robots challenges our whole idea of man. A successful integration of autonomous systems into the functional structures of a society requires various social, legal and institutional adjustments. Identifying the most important of these has, in 2015, been the central objective of the Expert Panel "Autonomous Systems", a working group in the Federal Government’s High-Tech Forum. Chaired by acatech’s president Henning Kagermann, the panel analyses technological developments, social challenges and potential business models.

WORKING PROCESSES IN THE INDUSTRY OF THE FUTURE. In an individualised economy, monitoring tasks come to the fore. Specialists can rely on their tablets or smart glasses to display the technical details they require for the control and maintenance of facilities. While such intelligent assistants reduce the employees’ work load, the overview and experience of older employees gains in importance. Robots work hand in hand with humans, especially in physically demanding tasks. In ageing societies like Germany this is a valuable relief.

Industrie 4.0: Realising the potential for new and good jobs

The new generation of intelligent and interconnected products changes our daily life. How they are produced, viz. the production processes, does so just as much. Employees are facing new requirements as the flexibility and complexity of production and logistics increase. Germany needs to accept the changing nature of work and actively shape the new processes. Only thus can the alterations result in the creation of good jobs and mitigate the effects of demographic change.

Smart services "made in Germany" will create new jobs. At CeBIT 2015, acatech presented its final report "Smart Service Welt" to Federal Minister for Economic Affairs, Sigmar Gabriel.

„On the basis of acatech findings, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy has developed its technology programme ‘Smart Service Welt – Web-based Services for Businesses’, the launch of which was announced at the IT Summit.“

Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, Sigmar Gabriel at the presentation of the final report "Smart Service Welt" in March 2015

SMART SERVICES. In the economic system of the future, smart services will evolve on the basis of intelligent Industrie 4.0-products: They enable the customer to individually compile product-and-service packages via the Internet. Mobility apps combining public transport, car sharing and other transport routes are a good example: Instead of buying a vehicle, people purchase integrated mobility services. The operating data smart Industrie 4.0-products provide is collected and processed on new digital platforms. This is the data intelligent services resort to. The project "Digital Service-Platforms" which acatech launched in November 2015 is currently drawing up an overview of the smart services already existing in Germany and is developing options for connecting platform providers and users.

The key to competitiveness and innovation in the platform economy are digital platforms where data is collected, exchanged and traded. Training on the job is particularly important to prepare people for the digitalised world of work. An acatech project launched in June 2015 analyses the skills needs of small and medium-sized companies and evaluates existing online solutions for skills development. The results will be presented in 2016 in the "Skills Development Study Industrie 4.0".

At the same time, the Academy is experimenting with Massive Open Online Courses and is testing practical uses of digital technologies in modern education and training programmes. The workshop series "Future of Industrial Work" which the Academy has been organising since November 2014 in cooperation with the Hans Böckler Foundation, offers works councils, trade unions, experts from the scientific community and the management boards of companies the opportunity to exchange their views: How will labour be organised in the future? How will workers’ participation be organised in Industrie 4.0-processes? Some initial answers to these questions can be found on the series’ website.

Growth requires cooperation, cooperation requires standardisation

Germany, although in a good starting position, needs to catch up in the global race for digital leadership, if Industrie 4.0 is to generate jobs and economic growth. To this end, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy is planning to expand its innovation partnership with China. Accordingly, Sigmar Gabriel travelled to China in summer 2015 with view to intensifying cooperation in the Industrie 4.0-sector. A Memorandum of Understanding on the cooperation between the two countries in the digital industrial technologies sector was signed in Beijing. acatech also appeals to Germany's large and small market leaders, encouraging them to venture on international cooperations to gain additional knowledge and promote innovation. Step by step, Germany could thus advance to become a leading supplier of Industrie 4.0 solutions.

Industrie 4.0 requires a global cooperation system with common norms and standards. The key to success is not only to offer the best technologies at competitive prices, but to achieve the international establishment of such norms and standards as will support the success of German technologies. The acatech project "Industrie 4.0 in the global context", launched in July 2015, examines the competitive advantages from international business cooperations for Industrie 4.0, particularly in the fields of research & development and standardisation. At the same time, the project group also deals with potential risks, such as the exposure of corporate knowledge.

Individualised Therapies: Creating suitable conditions for the medicine of the future

Not only future industrial processes will evolve around the possibilities of collecting large amounts of data, interlinking it on digital platforms and evaluating it. In the medical world, patient data will lead to fundamental changes. Clinical data, data from genome-analyses or phenotypic data of a patient are pooled in registers and databases, providing a starting point for individual diagnoses and therapies. New technologies enable this individualisation of medical treatment. In additive fabrication, i.e. 3D-printing on an industrial scale, and using innovative materials, it will be possible to produce, for instance, implants individually adapted to a patient’s requirements. However, there are legal and ethical issues arising in individualised medicine that need clarification. They relate to data protection, but also to the question of how statistically estimated probabilities of a disease outbreak should be dealt with. A joint project with the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina and the Union of the German Academies of Sciences and Humanities, launched in July 2015 under acatech lead, develops possible answers to these questions and examines the role of medical technology as an integral part of individualised medicine.

Overview of acatech’s projects in the thematic field Technology in 2015

Preparation of the strategy process “Digital Bavaria” Aug. 2014 - March 2015
City of the Future Initiative Nov. 2011 - March 2015
Smart Service Welt – Web-based Services for Businesses Nov. 2013 - June 2015
Scientific Advisory Board as part of the strategic initiative Industrie 4.0 Sep. 2013 - Nov. 2015
Expert Report Biomedical Engineering (in partnership with the German Society for Biomedical Engineering) Nov. 2015 - Dec. 2015
Smart Maintenance for Smart Factories Dez. 2014 - May 2016
Skills development Study Industrie 4.0 June 2015 - May 2016
Industrie 4.0 – International Benchmarks, Future Options and Recommendations for Production Research Nov. 2013 - June 2016
Additive-generative Manufacturing (in partnership with Leopoldina and the Union of the Academies, lead institution: acatech) Feb. 2014 - June 2016
Medical technology and Personalised Medicine (in partnership with Leopoldina and the Union of the Academies, lead institution: acatech) July 2015 - Sep. 2016
Industrie 4.0 in the global context July 2015 - June 2016
Industrie 4.0 – Engineering of Smart Products and Services Oct. 2014 - Sep. 2016
Industrie 4.0 – The Future of Industrial Work Dec. 2014 - Nov. 2016
open.acatech (MOOC) (in partnership with the Hasso Plattner Institute) June 2015 - Nov. 2016
New autoMobility – The Future World of Automated Road Traffic May 2015 - Dec. 2016
Digital Service-Platforms – Performance Criteria for the Smart Service World Nov. 2015 - July 2017