New Fraunhofer innovation cluster set to improve energy and resource efficiency in production.

It's not only the state of Saxony-Anhalt that's facing the question of what it ought to do against steadily rising energy costs Rising energy and raw material prices, the need to reduce carbon footprints and higher energy grid fees being anticipated in the long term are forcing companies to rethink their resource consumption and switch to regionally and sustainably produced energy supplies. Above all, the state’s energy-intensive manufacturing industry has to adapt its processes to these new circumstances as quickly as possible in order to remain competitive.

The newly established innovation cluster, ER-WIN ("Intelligente, Energieeffiziente Regionale Wertschöpfungsketten in der Industrie", or "Intelligent, Energy-Efficient Regional Value-Added Chains in Industry") is set to help companies in Saxony-Anhalt successfully rise to these challenges with new technologies and intelligent solutions. The innovation cluster is an initiative run by the Fraunhofer IFF in Magdeburg. Together with Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg and numerous other development and business partners in the state, it is bundling regional know-how to keep the industry located here competitive in the long term.

Building on the state’s distinctive features
Saxony-Anhalt's Minister for Science and Economic Affairs, Prof. Birgitta Wolff, is also backing the initiative. At the press conference to kick-start the innovation cluster, she emphasised that: "Rising energy prices are having a particularly significant impact on industry. The state is therefore supporting the improvement of energy efficiency in companies that are based here and backing solutions that make them more independent from the volatile energy market. Innovative projects that strengthen the regional economic structure and simultaneously build upon the state’s distinctive features, such as the higher-than-average share of renewable energies produced here in the energy mix, deserve particular attention. We want to enable manufacturing companies to benefit from these distinctive features in an economic sense."

Boosting value added in companies
Professor Schenk, Director of the Fraunhofer IFF, is of the opinion that many companies in Saxony-Anhalt are facing two challenges in particular. Firstly, he thinks that the value-added per quantity of energy used in companies is too low in comparison with the rest of the country. Secondly, the price of electricity is expected to continue rising and this will also weaken their competitiveness. "We want the ER-WIN innovation cluster to help companies manufacture in a more energy- and resource-efficient manner in the future," Schenk explains. "To do so, value-added synergies have to be generated both directly in companies and between different companies. We want to achieve this by making use of technical, organisational and technological innovations. One element of this is to make renewable energy produced in the region available to production. This can also help to lower costs in the long term."

New ways of improving energy and resource efficiency
Consequently, one of the innovation cluster’s objectives is to bring industry’s demand for energy in harmony with the renewable energy supply. This involves building intelligent energy grids as much as it does expanding the regional, local energy supply in a well-thought-out manner and modifying it to suit the requirements of industrial companies. The researchers in the ER-WIN innovation cluster will therefore also be examining how effective existing solutions are. Are the steps to improve energy efficiency that have been taken to date really the right ones? What other options are there for manufacturing in a more resource-efficient fashion?

Local, small power plants set up in selected locations, such as wind turbines, new energy storage and recovery technologies or the use of companies' production residues that companies use in combined heat and power plants to produce their own electricity and heat, are some of the solutions being mooted by the experts. Energy networking among eligible companies is – to a certain extent – also conceivable. This would enable them, for instance, to combine their energy requirements or to collectively recycle energy from production residues.

ER-WIN will enable companies to test new ways of efficiently using energy and resources together with research partners. The findings obtained here should ultimately be suitable for transfer throughout the whole of Germany. This could make Saxony-Anhalt a model region for energy efficiency in industry.

There is a requirement for solutions such as these in Saxony-Anhalt’s companies. The state, which will be intensively supporting the ER-WIN innovation cluster over the next two years, thinks so, too.

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