The BMBF has been funding materials research and selected chemical engineering priorities since the 1970s. Nanotechnology was added in the late 1990s. As technologies developed further and different research areas grew together, a new framework programme was created which combined the "Materials Research" programme with the "MaTech - New Materials for Key Technologies of the 21st Century" programme and the "Chemical Technologies" funding area. The new funding programme "WING - Materials Innovations for Industry and Society" was published in early 2004. This is the first programme to integrate traditional materials research with the basic discipline of chemistry and with nanotechnology.
Beside combining basic research and applied materials research with the aim of accelerating the transfer of results, the new programme also takes account of technology-driven changes in market conditions. The materials manufacturers have often only a minor share in the eventual high value creation with the component or system produced although they have covered most of the cost for research and development. Furthermore, the market needs ever smaller amounts of ever more specialized materials such as functional or layered materials. The increasing specialization of materials therefore requires increasing cooperation. Only R&D collaborations enable small and medium-sized companies to occupy profitable market niches.
The WING programme was drafted in close cooperation with materials manufacturers and users from big enterprises and SMEs and with representatives of all relevant science organizations, the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) and the German Materials Society (DGM), and it was focussed on the following main goals:
A holistic approach will be pursued in materials-based product innovation, and both society's needs and sustainability aspects in materials development will be taken into account. This means that WING is oriented to the internationally agreed basic pillars of sustainability: economy - ecology - society. They are reflected in the sectors which will in future receive materials-related funding, namely health, mobility, information/communication, secure energy supply and greater efficiency of resources, which together are expected to improve the economic, ecological and social conditions in our industrialized society. Funding policy thus provides the basis for greater competitiveness, for resources- and environment-conserving technologies and for securing and creating quality jobs in Germany. At the same time, the WING programme builds on the strengths of German industry and aims to enhance interdisciplinary systems competence and the ability to offer user-specific solutions.
The WING framework programme pursues the following goals at project level:
The framework of the WING programme will be filled out during the programme period as priorities are defined. The projects must, however, aim to mobilize private capital in order to trigger developments with optimum leverage for the innovation process. The BMBF is expressly focusing its funding for materials developments on the strong export sectors of mechanical engineering, vehicle construction, chemical industry, electrical engineering/electronics as well as information and communication, which are of great economic and technological relevance in Germany. The WING programme focuses on ten exemplary fields of action:
These fields of action are characterized by a highly interdisciplinary approach, including in particular traditional materials science, chemistry and the nanotechnologies, which are of special importance for industrial product development and thus for the economy as a whole.
Industry-led research collaborations between several companies and institutes continue to be the main funding instrument. Ideally, the collaborative projects cover the individual value-adding stages in materials development with the aim of ensuring the efficient commercialization of research results in the long run.