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a micro sensor

Microsystems Technology

Microsystems Technology (MST) is used everywhere – by suppliers of car parts, in medical technology and in the information and communication sectors. Growth rates of up to 10 percent per year are expected to continue. Funding for this key technology is thus an important part of the Federal Government's High-Tech Strategy. The BMBF set aside approximately 80 million euros for microsystems technology in 2010 alone under the funding programme "Information and Communication Technologies (ICT 2020)".

© Fraunhofer-Institut für Zuverlässigkeit und Mikrointegration IZMOne careless movement and the laptop falls off the desk. A few years ago, this would have been the end of the hard drive and all data would have been irretrievably lost. Today, a sensor measures the movement and recognizes that the laptop is being tilted. The hard drive is switched off instantly and the data secured – thanks to the latest microsystems technology.

Virtually unnoticed, microsystems are taking over more and more sensitive tasks in our everyday lives. They help us to save energy and steer our cars smoothly when driving through road traffic, help doctors to perform complicated operations, and regulate our heating and air-conditioning systems. Innovative microsystems work as tiny invisible helpers in countless areas of our everyday lives.

The very name microsystems technology says exactly what it does: It develops entire systems on a micrometre scale – systems which are in constant communication with their environment. Microsystems must be able to do three things in particular: "feel", "evaluate" and "act". Classic microsystems technology thus distinguishes between sensor technology for signal reception and actuator technology which enables an active influence on the environment.

Microsystems technology ensures intelligence

Common to all microsystems is the fact that different materials, components and technologies are linked together in a very small area. But modern microsystems are more than just the sum of their parts: The intelligent integration of the individual components to form more and more complex systems enables completely novel functions – leading to intelligent products which can make our lives safer, simpler and more comfortable.

Driver assistance systems which can avoid obstacles independently and make automatic emergency stops in critical situations, air-conditioning systems which register when we leave our homes and adjust themselves accordingly: In the not too distant future, we will be finding more and more intelligent systems in our lives. The technological basis for this development: New, intelligent microsystems in our everyday world – also known as "smart systems".

The microsystems of the future will not only feel, evaluate and act; they will also make decisions with foresight and communicate with their surroundings. They will have an autodiagnosis function and will operate largely autonomously – characteristics which come very close to cognitive abilities. Whereas classical microsystems merely function according to a pre-programmed pattern, "smart systems" will show at least rudimentary signs of being able to "think", "understand" and "learn".

The key technology of microsystems technology is thus one of the most important drivers of innovation in general. It is the technology that makes intelligent products possible. Microsystems technology is progress with a system.

Research funding is funding for small and medium-sized enterprises

The market for microsystems technology has a particularly large share of highly specialized small and medium-sized enterprises offering customer-specific solutions. The BMBF's funding takes this situation into account. Between 2005 and 2010, 75 percent of the industrial share of funding went to small and medium-sized firms.

Current MST funding under the "Information and Communication Technologies (ICT 2020)" funding programme also focuses on collaborative projects which, apart from research institutions and large concerns, also include small and medium-sized companies in particular. Not only does this approach ensure the fast translation of research results into marketable products, it also strengthens innovative SMEs. 

Fields of innovation

The BMBF is promoting microsystems technology in four fields of innovation which are significant for industrial and social policy. A total of 490 application-based research projects are currently being funded, involving an overall volume of funding of 184 million euros. Further information on these projects is available from the project management agency VDI/VDE Innovation + Technik GmbH.

  • a doctor checks a patient's blood pressure


    Human Beings

    The funding of microsystems focuses on human beings – for example in the areas of preventive health care, innovative diagnostics and new approaches in the fields of microsurgery or implantology. But this field of innovation also includes the development of intelligent ambient assisted living systems for the elderly – systems which stand for more safety, independence and quality of life, both at home and out-and-about.
     read more: Human Beings
  • a creek in the woods



    Climate change, energy security and the responsible handling of natural resources: Our society is facing existential challenges. Against this background, microsystems are the key to new, environmentally friendly products and processes. These will ensure that the world which we leave our children and generations to come is a world worth living in. Microsystems guarantee significantly lower energy consumption and the efficient use of resources.
     read more: Environment
  • cars on a highway



    Microsystems technology enhances the mobility of goods and people: For example, advanced driver assistance systems can help to avoid collisions with other road users. So-called RFID labels, that is to say highly integrated but nevertheless reasonably priced transponders, enable product data to be read and stored via radio signals. Logistics is not the only field that could be revolutionized by this technology. One thing is certain: Microsystems technology will open up completely new opportunities as far as mobility is concerned.
     read more: Mobility
  • inside a factory



    Industry is profiting increasingly from microsystems technology: Microsystems technology enables a "new chemistry"; dynamic 3-D visualization provides new perspectives in the field of automation and robotics; new production and integration processes provide impulses for mechanical and plant engineering. Key technologies in this context are mounting and connecting techniques, micro-nano integration, measuring and testing techniques and technical cognition.
     read more: Industry

Additional information


Here you can find all shippable publications.

Weitere Informationen

  • mst|report 2009, CD-Rom
  • mstnews, Spring Edition 10
  • mstnews, Autumn Edition 09

Please contact the project management agency VDI/VDE Innovation + Technik GmbH to order these publications and for further information.


© 09/05/2015 00:04 Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung