Work package 7: Application-oriented research

Research question/focus

The focus of work package 7 lies in the identification of organizational skills that enable the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft and so-called Research and Technology Organizations (RTOs) in general to make effective contributions to the management of crises. Specifically, we document and classify the contributions that various RTOs are actually making and have made to overcoming the crisis in the Covid-19 pandemic. In this way, we strive for a better understanding of the conditions and prerequisites for RTOs to function as effective boundary spanners in the innovation system.


The Covid-19 pandemic poses considerable challenges for numerous actors in research and business. Beyond the immediate crisis reaction, it is an increasingly urgent task to enable innovation systems in such a way that they meet long-term social needs and goals in the sense of a "mission-oriented" approach. A role in the solution of these challenges that has not been investigated enough to date is played by institutions of applied research and in particular the Research and Technology Organizations (RTOs), whose strategies for crisis management we are examining in more detail within the framework of work package 7.


1. Conceptual foundations and classification of RTO research contributions

In a first step, we lay the conceptual foundations of the investigation. At the same time, we begin with a scientometric analysis in order to record and classify developments in research in general before and during the crisis. Against this background, the dimensions of analysis are determined, on the basis of which the comparative analysis of the RTOs can take place. In particular, the first exploratory empirical analysis is an important step in selecting the RTOs that we will examine in in-depth case studies.

This step has now been completed and the following organizations have been selected for the in-depth case studies:

2. Empirical studies of selected RTOs

The second step comprises the empirical studies of the work package. To do this, we first conduct internet, document and literature research using different approaches. In the course of the analysis, text analytical methods and manual document analyzes are used. The main pillar of the data collection are interviews based on a guideline with representatives of the RTOs and experts of the respective innovation systems. We analyze each RTO taking into account the relevant context factors and, in a final step of analysis, discuss from a comparative perspective which results can be generalized and allow generic conclusions to be drawn that are also relevant beyond the RTOs examined and their innovation systems.

3. Analysis of the crisis-induced changes in R&D topics

We are compiling a collection of those research and development topics that can be considered relevant to Covid-19. To do this, we use scientometrics as a method to quantitatively capture the relevant topics. On the basis of project databases and online presentations, we identify the extent to which the research organisations have initiated Covid-19 relevant projects. In principle, it is not to be expected that scientific findings from projects started in March 2020 will already be available at the current time. For this reason, various open access sources (or pre-prints) are analyzed that already offer access to selected outputs from various research activities that have been heavily dynamic in the context of the pandemic. There are also policy documents that relate to the crisis and reactions that can be measured using altmetrics, which are also considered.

4. Consolidating analysis and recommendations for action

In the final step, we bring the analyzes together and formulate recommendations for action for central target groups, for example experts within the management level of the RTOs as well as in the area of German and European research, technology and innovation policy.

Das Fraunhofer ISI

The Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research (ISI) is an institution of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft with a focus on the interdisciplinary analysis of conditions for the emergence of innovations and their effects. Knowledge from the fields of technology, social science and economics comes together in seven different Competence Centers. The research goal of Fraunhofer ISI is to consider challenges of current and future generations at the present time in order to be able to present innovative solutions on a national as well as international level for a sustainable future. For this purpose, scientists from different disciplines work today on tomorrow's solutions according to the highest scientific standards.



The Fraunhofer Institute for Scientific and Technical Trend Analyzes INT uses its specially developed assistance system KATI (Knowledge Analytics for Technology and Innovation) to record the scientific publications of the individual RTOs considered and identifies Covid-19 relevant research projects of the organizations. The Fraunhofer Information Center for Space & Building IRB is also involved in the project context and provides support in questions of scientific research output, particularly with regard to the topics of knowledge transfer and open access.

Expected results

AP7 promises a threefold added value: (1) Empirically sound generation of concrete lessons for the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft to increase its reactivity in future crisis situations, (2) deepening the understanding and conceptualization of the role of RTOs as system actors and integrators in crisis situations and (3) the contribution to mission orientation that RTOs can make both in the course of and in the aftermath of a crisis situation. We plan at least one article in a scientific journal and the formulation of specific recommendations for action for RTOs, which will be made accessible in a policy brief.

work package 1

Project management

work package 2

Research data management

work package 3

Political decisions for the containment of the Corona pandemic

work package 4

Economy and Society

work package 5

International innovation networks

work package 6

Civil protection and security

work package 8

Recommendations for action