Materials shape Products

Increase Innovation and Market Opportunities with the Help of Creative Professionals

Hessian Ministry for Economy, Transport and Regional Development
84 pages

December 2010


Cars that change colour at the press of a button; glasses that never steam up, or house façades and pavements, which remove damaging particles from the surrounding air: about 70 % of all new products are based on novel materials. This means that materials development plays a key role in terms of the innovation capability of our society and economy. Enormous growth in innovate materials and in particular in nano-technologies is predicted over the next few years, from which all sectors will profit. According to the Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) the materials based sectors in Germany are already turning today over around a billion Euros and employ 5 million people.

The Society of German Engineers (VDI) already estimated the market turnover in products from the nano-technology sector at 100 thousand million Euros in 2006. Whilst this is scheduled to increase to 500 thousand million Euros by 2010 according to one German estimate, market researchers from Lux Research are even assuming a market value by 2014 of 2.6 billion US Dollars and that is just from material innovations alone that are based on nano-sized structures. Even if this development does not unfold so dramatically as predicted due to the economic crisis, this changes nothing in terms of the fundamentally enormous potential and leverage effects of this key industry.

If public discourse has hitherto largely ignored the non-dissolvable links between products and material, this seems to be undergoing a noticeable change today due to the establishment of many materials libraries, trade fairs and electronic databases. Materials are currently in fashion and offer huge opportunities in the vehicle manufacturing sector, process engineering, construction industry, environmental protection and medical engineering, which need to be exploited in the coming years. Above all the use of innovative materials in design or architecture is an obvious choice.

Whereas in the past one had to develop materials with particular functions from scratch to address specific issues, today we have access to such a broad spectrum of raw materials and manufacturing processes that almost anything seems technically possible. This has far reaching ramifications for our traditional technology oriented, linear concept of innovation because what is often missing today in terms of the realization of successful innovation processes is not the technological innovation in terms of a functional quality, but rather the successful conversion of a technological solution into a marketable product.

Creative professionals such as designers and architects take on a particular significance in this context for they are able to detect customer requirements that are not explicitly stated, take these into account during development and transform technical functions into emotional added value. Through the parallel development of technical excellence and marketable product applications the chances of success for a given innovation are increased!

Designers and architects are increasingly taking on a key role in terms of the success of an innovation process, especially as regards materials based developments, because it is often they who take the decision as to the choice of a suitable material and no longer just engineers. Also, companies now have recognized this subsection of the creative industries as their contact partners when it comes to developing meaningful product offerings for novel materials and, for instance, to bring the non visible added value of a nano-material to the attention of the user.

Hand in hand with this goes a change in our traditional concept of innovation, a culture, which under- stands innovations primarily as further developments of technological functionalities. Because in future: “the role of the creative professional will develop from that of an application focused consumer to that of a conceptually arguing thought-leader for novel possibilities, who will, in discourse with manufacturers, encourage the development of new materials or manufacturing processes or develop them themselves.”, according to Prof. Bernhard E. Bürdeck (The Offenbach College of Design). With increasing frequency, designers and architects are themselves stepping forward as innovators of novel materials and manufacturing processes and move ideas from research into a successful application context.

This brochure showcases stories of success in bring- ing materials to the market, provides assistance for companies in their search for creative service providers and lists research opportunities for new raw materials.

Success stories include, for example:

  • Art and Science Light up Concrete (University of Kassel)
  • World`s first ceramic wall covering (Marburger Tapetenfabrik J.B. Schäfer, Kirchhain)
  • Grasp the invisible on a nano-journey (Lekkerwerken, Wiesbaden)
  • Living environments with ultra-hard concrete (G.tecz, Kassel)

image: open-pored metal foam (source: Hollomet, Dresden)

image: transparent concrete (source: LUCEM Lichtbeton, Aachen)

image: wall covering from ultra-hard concrete (source: Doreen Westphal; G.tecz, Kassel)